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A group of ex-rugby union internationals with early signs of dementia and probable Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) are suing the game’s authorities for negligence. They say the conditions have developed as a result of repeated blows to the head.

Steve Thompson is a former England international and is only 42 years old, yet has been diagnosed with early signs of dementia. Thompson is unable to even recall the 2003 World Cup Games that he played in. He said, “it’s like I’m watching the game with England playing and I can see me there – but I wasn’t there”. Thompson is therefore convinced that the constant head knocks during matches and training are to blame.

Alix Popham, former Welsh international and only 40 years old, was diagnosed with early signs of dementia in April 2020. He said a neurologist has given he and his family “a five to 10-year management plan” before going on to say that “how quickly the symptoms get worse after that, nobody knows.”

It is alleged that the game’s authorities failed to exercise their duty to protect players by implementing rules relating to assessment, diagnosis and treatment of concussive and sub-concussive injuries.

It is predicted that a group class action could follow, as another 80 former players between the ages of 25 and 55 have presented with symptoms.

Experts have declared that the claim would likely not succeed at court due to issues relating to breach of duty and causation. However, similar action has previously been taken internationally, as a group of former American footballers settled claims worth approximately £700m in total in 2011 against the NFL. It is therefore possible that these cases will instead reach settlement out of court.

It is hoped that these claims could force changes to the way rugby is currently played to “look after the young players coming through”, as said by Thompson.

If you have suffered head injuries as a result of rugby and would like a confidential discussion with our experienced Personal Injury team, contact us for free on 01484 821 500, or submit your claim online and a member of the team will get back to you as soon as possible.