There is rapidly increasing concern over the incidence of concussions in certain contact sports. In particular, rugby is being scrutinized regarding the safety standards in place to safeguard players against concussion in rugby.
Several well-documented collisions between players and subsequent studies on their impact have raised concerns about the efficacy of safety protocols.
More and more former rugby union players are joining a possible negligence case against the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the Wales Rugby Union (WRU), and World Rugby. Legal representatives for the ex-players are claiming that frequent head collisions and concussion in rugby, incurred during gameplay, caused them lifelong brain damage.
This lawsuit might have a big influence on sport; with implications reaching far beyond the rugby field. It raises critical points regarding why concussions are a problem, how a sports body may be held liable for carelessness, and the influence on the sport generally.
Why is Concussion a Problem?
The long-term health repercussions from brain injuries and concussions were heavily scrutinized in 2013 during a $1 billion lawsuit filed by former American football players against the National Football League (NFL).
Data showed an elevated risk of brain illnesses among NFL players. One of the highest risks is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain illness caused by repetitive head impacts. Depression, short-term memory loss, confusion, and dementia are all symptoms of CTE.
Following the NFL lawsuit, concussion awareness increased in other contact sports like rugby, owing to the two games’ parallels in style. The case influenced rugby at all levels, including limiting scrums and tackles in school rugby.
Concussion in rugby is, unfortunately, all too common. But these injuries can lead to significant irreversible health disorders like CTE, which have gone unnoticed for many years. In addition, second impact syndrome occurs when the brain receives two consecutive hits.
To reduce the risk of harm, the RFU now requires that players not be irresponsible or hazardous to others on the field. Still, others question whether these restrictions give adequate protection.
The rugby players who have joined the suit say the governing authorities failed to secure their personal safety and protect them from irreparable brain harm.
A duty of care between two parties, a breach of that obligation, a causative relationship to the injury, and foreseeability of loss are all required to establish negligence in civil law. Participants, referees, occupants of sports sites, governing organizations, coaches, and medical professionals all bear a duty of care.
The courts have also acknowledged the complexities of applying negligence to sport, stating that the nature of sports activity must be considered when determining the degree of care due. Injuries are inherent dangers in sports, and are widely regarded as part of the spirit of contact sports. That’s why it’s difficult to distinguish between unavoidable sport-related injuries and unlawful harm caused by a lack of player protection.
Impact on Rugby
Sport and the law are difficult, as is the legal accountability of sports organisations. In the UK, the government’s involvement in sport is minimal, and the legislation usually defers to the governing body’s autonomous and self-regulatory power. This regulatory conflict frequently leaves sportsmen exposed while seeking legal protection.
Yet, the Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) maintains player wellbeing is paramount and funds scientific research into concussion. Players need an independent representative body where they may openly exercise their rights and learn about the law, sport, and other topics.
The ex-players say this isn’t about altering the game or stopping others from participating, but about minimizing the incidence of concussion in rugby and making it as safe as possible while keeping its unique features. It’s also about athletes’ rights. A settlement may even be the greatest choice for athletes’ wellbeing, helping with medical expenditures rather than legal fees. Regardless of the verdict, the impact on sport and player welfare in rugby will be profound.