Brain injuries in contact sports

A recent report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed the results of a study of American football players’ brains.

Included within the study were the brains of 111 deceased professional players from the National Football League (NFL). All bar one of the 111 former NFL players was found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE); which is a degenerative condition found in people who have suffered repeated blows to the head.

The disease can cause:

  • memory loss
  • impaired judgement,
  • confusion; and
  • other mental health issues.

There has been some argument that the families of the former players suspected that some form of brain damage had been suffered, thus skewing the sample of former players studied. However, even allowing for this potential bias with the former players selected, a problem does still seem to exist.

In 2015, a federal judge in America approved a class-action brought against the NFL by thousands of players who alleged they had suffered brain damage as a result of concussions. In 2016 the NFL publically acknowledged for the first time that there is a connection between CTE and American football.

This raised some interesting issues in relation to sports in this country which carry a risk of concussion injuries, for example, rugby.

In rugby union, the new high tackle laws were introduced designed to reduce the number of head injuries in the sport, with 76% of all head injuries caused in the tackle. In addition, head injury assessments are now commonplace seeking to reduce further injuries being sustained when a player carries on playing with a concussion.

Time will tell whether sport governing bodies and/or team owners in this country had sufficient knowledge of the risks of CTE in their sport and should have acted any sooner than they did.

When the courts have been considering the issues of injuries arising from contact sports, which carry an innate risk of injury, the results are varied. Some judges have been harsh and take the view that those who choose to engage in physical activities, which give rise to a degree of unavoidable risk, may find they have no means of recompense if the risk materialises. Conversely, other judges balance the benefit of allowing individuals to challenge themselves with the need to protect participants from dangerous consequences.

Contact us

If you or a loved one have suffered a brain injury as a result of participation in a contact sport and would like to discuss the possibility of bringing a personal injury claim, please contact our Sports Injury Lawyers for a FREE no-obligation chat on 0808 164 0808 or complete the request a call back form and we will call you.