A cohort of British Rugby League players are set to join upwards of 60 former Rugby Union players in court over explosive brain injury information, per The New Zealand Herald.
According to NZ Herald journalists and an English based sports lawyer, should the collective be successful in the courtroom, then it could spell the game’s death knell.
Dylan Cleaver of the NZ Herald first reported earlier this month that 70 ex-Union players may have already supplied information to a possible class action against the game’s governing bodies on the grounds of negligence.
Although no former NRL players are said to have joined their northern hemisphere counterparts, there is no telling what future legal and scientific findings will have on the game.
A brain disease linked to repetitive head injury has been discovered in two former rugby league players. The discovery is the first time Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy has been identified in an @NRL athlete. https://t.co/JEANRJKjIC #TheLatest #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/gUB4OtTBbs
— 7NEWS Melbourne (@7NewsMelbourne) June 27, 2019
According to a report on Wednesday from Aaron Bower at The Guardian, 10 former League players have sought counsel from law firm Rylands Law due to them all collectively exhibiting early signs of dementia.
The aforementioned sports lawyer – Richard Cramer from the aptly named Front Row Legal – has claimed that their case may be difficult one to prove.
However, Cramer also suggested that if any already cash-strapped governing bodies are forced to make payouts, then the code could be brought to its knees.
“It may not be able to survive claims of this nature, because it can run into thousands and thousands of pounds,” he said.
“This isn’t good news financially for the sport and could be the final straw but it clearly can’t be brushed aside because of the issues facing the players.”
Despite these words, Cramer doubled down on his opinion that negligence may be impossible to prove.
“There is no clearcut favourite here; I can certainly see it from the claimants’ point of view,” he said.
“The RFL have treated concussion a lot more seriously over the last few years but the real test is whether any governing body in any sport were always aware of the risks associated with head injuries.
“The most obvious defence would be ‘Volenti non fit injuria’, which means that when a player goes out on the field, they’re aware of the physical nature of the sport they’re playing and they consent to playing with the risks associated to it.
“But if there is medical evidence to show these issues and injuries have been caused by playing the game, that’s something that cannot be ignored.
“If they chose to ignore them at any stage there’s a duty of care issue for sure.”
“This is a very real issue and while any challenge will be vigorously defended by the authorities, if it can be proven there has been some sort of negligence, there is certainly a chance the claims could succeed.”
As previously mentioned, no former or current NRL players have indicated they will join the fight.
Still, should the proposed class action gain momentum, there is no telling how many names will volunteer their stories.
A coroner has recommended robust training on the dangers of head injury for all players, parents and staff, after a NSW rugby league player died on the field during a match in 2016. @AirlieWalsh #9News pic.twitter.com/VtPpzarDg5
— 9News Sydney (@9NewsSyd) October 30, 2020