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First Brain Injury case involving Irish players about to be filed

  • 27-07-2022 9:20am
    Moderators, Politics Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators Posts: 13,696 Mod ✭✭✭✭Quin_Dub

    The inevitable looks like it's about to happen - According to the Irish Times , a law firm here is preparing to lodge a legal complaint against the IRFU for players suffering from early onset dementia and other brain related injuries.

    There are no names of players involved released yet nor does it say if those involved were International or Pro level players.

    According to the law firm, they will likely lodge the claim in September/October.

    The issues for the Irish claimants are similar in nature to those of former rugby players in England and Wales, who have been diagnosed with early-onset dementia and other irreversible neurological impairments, which they claim were caused by playing rugby and receiving repeated blows to the head during their careers. All of them have now retired due to concerns over the lasting effects.

    “Yes very much so [similar types of issues as the UK players]. CTE [chronic traumatic encephalopathy]. Exactly the same,” said McClafferty.

    There is no timeline set out and the pace of the proceedings will be determined very much by the approach taken by the IRFU and their insurers.

    “Once the proceedings issue then they just have to take their course,” added McClafferty. “The timeline will be decided very much by the IRFU, the way in which they approach the cases. We can go the long route or go the other route. It is up to the IRFU.”



  • Registered Users Posts: 4,334 ✭✭✭BoardsMember

    The lawyer not exactly sounding like a genius in those quotes...."We can go the long route or go the other route".

  • Subscribers Posts: 39,482 ✭✭✭✭sydthebeat

    yeah i think this is inevitable.

    However i think the IRFU, a bit more so than most of the other RFUs, will have a stronger argument in relation to player safety due to their ownership of the clubs and the protectionist policies followed.

    Whilst the effects of the injuries are there for all to see, i wouldnt be expecting an assumption that negligence will be easily proven. The lawyers will have to be able to point to tangible evidence which showed that the RFUs knowingly failed to enact best practise / medical evidence created to protect these players.

  • Is the standard that they knowingly failed to enact best practice, or were reckless with regard to best practice?

  • Subscribers Posts: 39,482 ✭✭✭✭sydthebeat

    thats for the courts to decide, but i dont think its a stretch to consider "being reckless with best practise" as equitable to "failing to enact best practise"

  • Moderators, Politics Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators Posts: 13,696 Mod ✭✭✭✭Quin_Dub

    I definitely think that there is a legal argument to be made in respect of "who knew what and when"

    We now know the significant risks etc , but were those risks known and widely accepted 20 years ago or even 10 years ago and perhaps more importantly were the various preventative actions known and widely accepted?

    If the various Unions and in the case of the UK & France , the Club owners can show that at each particular juncture they were following what was believed to be "best practice" at that time then legally speaking it may be hard to prove negligence.

    None of that makes the situation these players find themselves in any less awful however and Rugby should do all that they can to help them.

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  • Subscribers Posts: 39,482 ✭✭✭✭sydthebeat

    yeah thats the crux of the matter.

    were the dangers of concussion known and subsequently hidden from players or players misled to the effects?

    were players rushed back to playing after concussive incidents against medical advice?

    theres certainly evidence to situations where players were allowed to play on after concussive incidents

  • Moderators, Politics Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators Posts: 13,696 Mod ✭✭✭✭Quin_Dub

    There are definitely questions to be answered.

    I think everyone saw the famous incident involving Florian Fritz while playing for Toulouse and it's unlikely that that was an isolated one off incident but proving that the governing body deliberately minimised medical information or withheld appropriate action may be very difficult to prove in a court room.

  • Registered Users Posts: 20,524 ✭✭✭✭Venjur

    There are loads of factors that will impact liability. Even if the IRFU wern't negligent (followed best practice / advice) the injuries were still obtained by (presumably) employees through the normal course and scope of their work.

    This could be pure opportunism on the part of the Solicitors but the IRFU could have done nothing wrong and still end up paying compensation as the damage is directly linked to the occupation.

    I suspect the action will also focus on when evidence of links entered the public domain and to what extent and when the IRFU subsequently took action.

    My knowledge of this area of law is totally out of date, but there are no shortages of avenues available to the injured parties.

  • Moderators, Politics Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators Posts: 13,696 Mod ✭✭✭✭Quin_Dub

    I'd agree that these players may well be due compensation in the same way that any employee could claim from their employers insurance policy for a workplace accident or injury arising from work , but that doesn't necessarily mean that negligence was at play.

    Legally speaking, the challenge may come down to proving that it was the "workplace" that caused the issue and not just horrible misfortune because for every former player struck down by this awful condition , there are many many more that are unaffected having participated in the same games and the same training sessions over the years.

    As I said at earlier , these guys should be afforded every assistance that can be provided , but I'm not sure that a legal case seeking to prove negligence is the correct approach.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,076 ✭✭✭RichieRich_89

    Bearing in mind that these are probably mostly cases from 10-20 years ago (perhaps a bit more recent), I can't help but wonder what the situation will be like in another 10 or 20 years. Most concussions happen in the tackle or ruck, and there are far more tackles and rucks in the game now than there were 15 years ago. I saw one stat that the average number of tackles a side had to make at the 1987 RWC was 48.

    Whats the answer? Reverting to the breakdown laws of 50 years ago so 'going through the phases' doesn't happen as much because it's harder to hold on to the ball in the post-tackle situation?

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  • Moderators, Politics Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators Posts: 13,696 Mod ✭✭✭✭Quin_Dub

    I'm not sure that it's true that the tackle/ruck area is where the long term damage is necessarily being done - Yes they are the source of the visible incidents which is sort of obvious , but if you read Steve Thompsons story he talks about the constant pressure in the scrum being the big source of problems for him, Hayman says the same thing.

    Specifically at training where they'd be putting in 20/30/40+ scrums one after another.

    Having played prop at decent level back in the day I can absolutely attest to the impact those "old school" scrum sessions would have had.

    I can remember doing pre-season sessions against a neighbouring club and doing 50+ scrums over the course of maybe 90 minutes and being utterly ruined for the next few days as a result.

    Thankfully no one does that sort of thing anymore.

  • I'm trying to remember my classes on this area and iirc, there's a test of whether it was reasonably foreseeable that these practices would lead to health impairment. I think the NFL cases gave a fair warning to rugby tbh, I reckon the IRFU are goosed on this.

  • Registered Users Posts: 20,524 ✭✭✭✭Venjur

    If I recall correctly reasonable forseeability is more in relation to proving actual negligence. The IRFU don't need to be guilty of negligence for them to be required to pay compensation.

    If they were found negligent that would lead to (potentially significantly) higher damages however.

    Lots of people finish sport with life long injuries as a result of partaking. This case is obviously about massively consequential injuries but sport leads to wear and tear that is never expected to be compensated for.

    I honestly think the employment aspect and employer liability is going to be one of the more significant factors for the above reasons. If you pay someone to enter rucks and make tackles you inherit some of the liability for the damage caused by that forseen or otherwise.

    I remember reading a case years ago about injury compensation where the person was selected for a team but not paid or contracted but the existence of gate receipts had an impact of their status as an employee. Can't remember the specifics but these are the sort of arguments that are going to be made and will potentially expand the class action in due course!

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    IMO there'll be zero traction on this until a decision is issued by UK courts...... this is just a 'holding pattern' exercise to see where the ball bounces.

  • They have to lodge a case in any event, as there is time limits in personal injury actions. I'd rather see this resolved by a non-contentious route but not sure what such a scenario would look like, we're looking at (a possibly large group of) men who might live another 40 or 50 years who may end up needing 24/7 care, the costs of that are staggering to contemplate.

  • I don't want to sound like i'm disagreeing here, but no one signs up to the risk of significant brain damage when they play sports. This is a long way from any normal injuries you may be expected to risk.

  • Registered Users Posts: 20,524 ✭✭✭✭Venjur

    Sure - I didn't intend to come across in anyway glib, and as I said there are massive consequences at play here. I was merely pointing out that there are plenty of people getting knee and hip replacements before 40 tied directly to their sports careers. There is only so far liability will travel when we're talking about amateur involvement in sport.

  • I agree fwiw - though I think this is going to get messier in years to come. I was at a funeral recently of a guy who had to retire young from a sport, you know how the talk goes, "if he'd stayed fit he was definitely going to an international/intercounty player etc" - he did his knee in in his early 20's and he never fully recovered (athletically that is, otherwise he had a long and happy life).

    Nowadays treatment is so much better that he'd probably have gotten his knee rebuilt, played his sport to a high level, and then had it replaced in his early 40's etc. The (slight?) downside of this treatment is that players can now endure much worse injuries (or injuries with worse long term consequence). This changes what people can be reasonably expected to consent to on the pitch, imo.

  • Subscribers Posts: 39,482 ✭✭✭✭sydthebeat

    lets not forget that the NFL were never found guilty of anything... they decided to settle before a judgement was made.

    id imagine something similar may occur here with RFUs and WR looking to come out on the better side by providing financial compensation to these players and dressing it as some kind of 'injured players fund', without any admission of guilt.

  • You don't settle a multi-billion case you think you are going to win... but joking (?) aside, who is richer, the NFL or World Rugby? I don't know how deep a fund you'd need for the health care needed here. These are relatively young men looking at decades of care.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 434 ✭✭tooka

    I have said for years the clock is ticking on how the game of rugby is played

    all it takes is one settled litigation in any jurisdiction and the insurance companies will demand massive changes to how the sport is played and amateur rugby could be completely shut down as insurance companies will decide not to underwrite.

    It’s a ticking time bomb

  • Registered Users Posts: 13,177 ✭✭✭✭thebaz

    Well that would be shame , I am all for making the game safer and questioned the 11 month profesional season - but as an almost ex Sportsman, who played rugby , football and a bit of boxing - have had many injuries including concussion and a permanently damaged athritic knee and damaged shoulder - but I think the benefits of sport far outweigh a non active life - life is for living and hopefully this makes the game safer and not an end to the sport.

  • Registered Users Posts: 434 ✭✭tooka

    I agree 100% but insurance companies are gradually ruining everything from play centres for kids and now professional rugby

    law firms and judges are a big part of the problem but insurance companies are even a bigger part of the problem. They are a law onto themselves.

  • Moderators, Politics Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators Posts: 13,696 Mod ✭✭✭✭Quin_Dub

    Insurance companies are why we have the 1M scrum rule at underage and Junior rugby , it's also why the team-sheets all now have to specify which players are "front row capable" - Not a fan of the 1M rule ,but I have absolutely no issue with the latter as it makes total sense.

    That came about after a player in Wales was injured in a scrum having gone in to play Prop in a junior game when they had never played there before.

  • Registered Users Posts: 434 ✭✭tooka

    I deal a good bit with underwriters and you either dance to their tune or they will deny cover or quote you a premium you cannot afford.

    the amount of conditions they will push on you so they can Deny payouts in crazy

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    Heading towards the second anniversary of my mother's passing due to MND. This story in the link below brings back those sad memories.

  • Registered Users Posts: 39,408 ✭✭✭✭ohnonotgmail

    The NFL started studying this in early 2000s. studies around this have shown links between concussion and long term brain injury since 2003/4

  • Moderators, Politics Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators Posts: 13,696 Mod ✭✭✭✭Quin_Dub

    Oh I totally understand that people were aware of the risks in the NFL, but when was the 1st investigation into Rugby and were the various groups following the prevailing best practice at the time based on what was known.

    If the guidance from the medical profession was X and they were doing X then negligence is hard to prove legally.

  • Registered Users Posts: 39,408 ✭✭✭✭ohnonotgmail

    Well if it was known that concussions in NFL caused long term brain injury then it is not unreasonable for world rugby to realise that concussions in rugby will do the same and act accordingly.

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  • Moderators, Politics Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators Posts: 13,696 Mod ✭✭✭✭Quin_Dub

    Indeed - And what was deemed "Acting Accordingly" 20 years ago and were they doing that or not?

    That's the question from a legal perspective , not what they were doing then based on what we know now.