BREAKING NEWS: Steve Thompson reveals he CAN’T REMEMBER winning the World Cup with England in 2003 or even being in Australia as he leads group of players SUING rugby authorities over brain injuries suffered during their careers
- Retired rugby players are taking action against World Rugby the RFU and WRU
- They are being led by England World Cup winner Steve Thompson
- Thompson says he does not recall England winning the world cup in 2003
Steve Thompson is leading a group of retired rugby players taking legal action against the RFU – after being diagnosed with early onset dementia and claiming he does not remember winning the World Cup with England.
Former hooker Thompson, ex-England flanker Michael Lipman and former Wales No8 Alix Popham have all been named as test cases in bringing action against World Rugby, the RFU and Welsh Rugby Union for negligence over brain injuries they suffered in their career.
There are eight confirmed test cases – the other five have not yet been named – and all are aged under 45 and played in England or Wales.
Sportsmail understands British law firm Rylands Legal are speaking to at least 100 other players about the seismic lawsuit, which is reminiscent of the class action taken by 4,500 former American football players against the NFL in 2012.
Steve Thompson is leading a group of retired rugby players bringing action against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and Welsh Rugby Union for negligence over brain injuries they suffered in their career
HOW PLAYING RUGBY DAMAGES THE BRAIN
Scientific trials over the past decade have established a clear link between repeated concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) — a degenerative brain disease which can lead to dementia.
Mounting evidence over the potential dangers of head contact has led to increased awareness in physical sports such as football, American football, boxing and rugby.
Repeated blows to the head suffered on the field, from colliding with other players in the case of rugby or from boxers taking punches, are thought to be the cause of the irreversible damage.
The RFU admits that it poses a ‘significant potential risk of concussion’. It says there is one incident in every three professional matches. But it says the risk is much lower in amateur matches.
Researchers this year found young rugby players who suffer repeated small blows to the head can develop subtle brain damage — even if they are not serious enough to cause a concussion.
Western University scientists said their findings add to existing evidence that even if a knock to the head doesn’t lead to a concussion, it could still cause long-term brain damage.
The players involved have also published a 15-point charter of changes they would like to see made in rugby to help improve the safety of players when it comes to concussion.
Their demands include limiting the number of contact sessions in any goven year, better sideline testing and for ‘concussion spotters’ to have authority to remove players showing visible symptoms.
Thompson, 42, was diagnosed with early onset dementia and probable CTE in November.
He said: ‘I have no recollection of winning the World Cup in 2003, or of being in Australia for the tournament. Knowing what I know now, I wish that I had never turned professional.
‘I went from working on a building site and training twice a week to training every day, sometimes twice a day.
‘Many of those training sessions were contact sessions using a scrummage machine and I would be in the thick of things, with all the pressure pushed on me.
‘It was not uncommon for me to be left dazed, seeing white spots and not knowing where I was for a few seconds, sometimes I would pass out completely.
‘It was just an accepted part and parcel of training. I really wished that I had ended my career earlier, maybe my diagnosis might not be so bleak.’
And Lipman,Lipman, the ex-Bath flanker who won 10 caps for England between 2004 and 2008, has been suffering the symptoms of mild dementia, at the age of just 40.
Now living in Australia, estimates that he suffered 30 concussions during his career and told the Sydney Morning Herald last month: ‘If I wasn’t completely knocked out, I played on.’
University of Glasgow researchers found in 2018 that ex professional footballers — who head heavy leather balls — were three-and-a-half times more likely to die of a degenerative brain disease.
The study — published in a prestigious medical journal — was launched after years of campaigning by the family of the former West Brom and England star Jeff Astle, who died aged 59 with dementia. Three of the 11 England players who started the World Cup final against West Germany – Peters, Nobby Stiles and Ray Wilson – were all diagnosed with dementia.
THE PLAYERS’ CHARTER FOR CHANGE
The players involved in the action have proposed this 15 point charter to improve health and safety in rugby
1. World Rugby to accept that playing professional rugby can lead to CTE and other neurodegenerative diseases.
2. Regulated training to be introduced limiting contact to a certain number of sessions a year.
3. Limit the number of substitutes per game.
4. All players’ unions to have greater independence.
5. Zero hour contracts to be abolished.
6. Competent baseline testing each pre-season.
7. Adoption of better sideline testing.
8. Concussions spotters to have authority to remove players showing visible symptoms.
9. Career-long central database chronicling injury history.
10. Remove rugby union’s reliance on various arch-conservative organisations, such as the International Consensus Group on Concussion in Sport (CISG) and the International Concussion & Head Injury Research Foundation (ICHIRF), and select sports science departments.
11. Urgent research to be carried out on front row forwards.
12. Greater education on the issue of con.
13. For every three concussions suffered by a player, he or she will receive a full set of medical tests.
14. Remove reliance on the MRI scan to prove brain trauma.
15. Better aftercare.
Thompson has been named as a test case along with former England flanker Michael Lipman (above)
Former Wales No 8 Alix Popham is another former player to have been named as a test case