The number of former players who are backing a potential legal action against the RFL for the delayed effects of head injuries they suffered as players has now risen to 75, according to Richard Boardman, the lawyer who is representing the ten players who have already instructed him to seek redress from the RFL for the brain damage they believe they suffered while playing Rugby League.
“We have just started the pre-action phase of the group action,” Boardman, a partner in London legal firm Rylands, told League Express.
“In any dispute the court encourages both parties to reach an early and amicable resolution before proceedings are issued and the pathway to trial is put on track.
“We have commenced the pre-action and we are awaiting the RFL’s response.
“We are waiting for them to provide some documents before it starts to escalate.
“The ten test cases are part of a wider cohort of 75 cases and we believe that figure will have risen to a low three figures in the next few months.”
And Boardman is confident that the RFL has a strong case to answer.
“We are very confident in our case, going on everything our experts have seen to date, we will be proceeding with the litigation. We are resolute that we are pushing ahead.
“This problem is impossible to ignore.
“Testing is ongoing for some of these players, but a good number of them have been diagnosed with dementia. Even at the age of 40 onwards we are finding some former players with early-onset dementia and the point to emphasise is that some young me in their 20s can end up with considerable brain problems from the injuries they have suffered playing the game.”
And Boardman is confident that he has the scientific proof to back up his claims.
“A study in August James Drake Foundation found that 23% of players playing elite rugby had signs of brain damage, with shrinkages in brain volume.
“This isn’t just about a few lads playing Rugby League, it’s an epidemic in both rugby codes. It covers all contact.
“It’s true to say that the elite game is not safe at the moment.
“It implies that there have to be changes in the rules and the training protocols to reduce direct contact.
“Everyone involved cares a lot for these sports but we have to be much smarter in protecting their participants.
“It’s often not the big concussions that cause the damage, it’s the sub-concussions, the milder hits to the head.
“When players are hit in the head thousands of times, it’s that that causes CTE and dementia.
“In football, Jeff Astle never had a concussion, but he died with dementia because of the number of times he headed the ball while he was a professional player.
“If you could see the symptoms some of these guys have, you wouldn’t wish it on anyone. None of them signed up for this and they deserve justice.”
Meanwhile the RFL is likely to extend the stand down period next season for players with concussion from seven days to ten days, which would force players suffering concussion to miss their club’s next game.
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