RFL gives cautious response to litigation threat

The RFL has responded to the news that a group of ten former players are considering legal action against the governing body for alleged negligence in protecting them from the consequences of head injuries.

It has issued a statement expressing sympathy for the players while not admitting any legal liability but pointing out the improvements that have been made in recent seasons to protect players who suffer head injuries on the field.

All ten former players, including Bobbie Goulding (pictured), claim that they are suffering the early symptoms of dementia.

Their lawyers say the players are all suffering from “neurological complications”.

“The Rugby Football League has recently been contacted by solicitors representing a number of former players,” said the RFL’s statement.

“The RFL takes player safety and welfare extremely seriously and has been saddened to hear about some of the former players’ difficulties.

“Rugby League is a contact sport and while there is an element of risk to playing any sport, player welfare is always of paramount importance.

“As a result of scientific knowledge, the sport of Rugby League continues to improve and develop its approach to concussion, head injury assessment, education, management and prevention across the whole game. We will continue to use medical evidence and research to reinforce and enhance our approach.”

Goulding, 49, has recently been diagnosed with early-onset dementia and he believes there was not enough protection for players who had suffered head injuries, revealing that he had played again within days of being knocked unconscious at least three times in his career.

“For something like this to come out of the blue, and hit me like a bus, is hard to take,” he said.

“I didn’t think about dementia at all, I just thought it was the way life was.

“I played within days of serious knockouts on at least three occasions. I remember playing on a Sunday for Leigh at Huddersfield towards the end of my career [in 2002].

“I was in Huddersfield Royal Infirmary on the Sunday night after being seriously knocked out and played the following Saturday against Batley. I didn’t have one doctor check on me during that week.”

Former Wales international Michael Edwards, 48, and Scotland internationals Jason Roach, 50, and Ryan MacDonald, 43, are also part of a test group of 10 players, all under the age of 60, bringing the legal action. All three have also been diagnosed with early-onset dementia.

Their lawyer, Richard Boardman, said he was representing a total of 50 former professional rugby league players in their 20s to 50s, all of whom are showing symptoms associated with neurological complications.

He is also representing 175 former rugby union players, including Thompson, in a separate lawsuit.

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