Experts from the medical and legal professions are to tackle the issue of concussion in sport at a seminar debating the duty of care on sports clubs and organisations to protect competitors from illnesses linked to concussion injuries.
Arranged and hosted by London-based personal injury specialists Hudgell Solicitors, the seminar will explore whether enough is being done to protect sports competitors from developing brain injuries in later life.
The seminar comes hot on the heels of acclaimed BBC documentary, ‘Alan Shearer: Dementia, Football and Me’ which was broadcast last November and highlighted possible links between brain damage and football players repeatedly heading a ball throughout their careers.
The documentary questioned why little had changed since a coroner ruled way back in 2002 that former West Brom and England star Jeff Astle had died aged 59 of ‘industrial disease’, having suffered from a degenerative brain disease, brought on by the repeated heading of a football.
Treatment of concussion is ‘one of the biggest issues in modern day sport’
Josie Robinson, of Hudgell Solicitors, a dual-qualified solicitor and physiotherapist who represents professional sports men and women who suffer as a result of negligent medical care following injury, will chair the seminar.
She says it will look to answer key questions as to whether sports bodies are now doing enough to protect players and whether those doctors involved in sports at all levels are providing adequate care and ensuring that players are fully informed of their exposure to risk.
Concussion, the precautionary measures taken to lessen the likelihood and frequency of it, the appropriate treatment and long term thinking with regards to its impact on health is now one of the biggest issues in UK sport.
Many sports are introducing measures to reduce the number of incidents and making changes with regards to when players are able to return to play, especially in rugby and football, but is enough being done to protect players from harm?
There are still many examples where questionable decisions appear to have been made with regards to players returning to action after head injuries. This seminar will aim to pose questions to sporting bodies, the health care professionals involved, and those who take part, as to whether enough has been done and is being done now.
Are all players being treated appropriately, and they in possession of enough information and are they being afforded enough recovery time before returning to competition?
Experts to reveal latest medical and legal thinking over concussion injuries in sport
Speakers at the event – Concussion in Sport: Do players have the protection and information they need? –which will be held at on Wednesday, March 21 at the Outer Temple Chambers in London, will include Dr Michael Turner of The International Concussion & Head Injury Research Foundation.
Having spent 21 years as Chief Medical Officer to British Horseracing, he is currently leading a three-year research programme into the long-term health implications of concussion, focussing on a group of retired sportsmen and women aged between 50 and 80.
He said: “The days of people dismissing the seriousness of concussion in sport are over. We know it is bad so those involved in sport and healthcare have a responsibility to improve player welfare.
“Years ago, people who worked in asbestos factories were totally unaware of the danger it posed. When the dangers were identified, every effort had to be made to protect those at risk by preventing exposure to the hazard, which was asbestos fibres.
“We are all aware of the dangers of concussion and it has to be accepted that impact sports are concussion factories. We know what the hazard is – it is concussion – so we are obligated to try and eliminate the risk and protect those involved from coming to long-term harm.”
Also speaking at the event will be barrister Jonathan Hand, an expert in representing those injured as a result of sports participation.
He will give an insight into the latest legal thinking around concussion in sport, the responsibilities which fall upon sporting bodies in the current day, and whether legal cases can be expected.
In 2015, a legal case in the US settled on behalf of more than 20,000 former NRL American Football players, which it is estimated is set to cost the sport more than £1billion in compensation settlements for those who have developed dementia or neurological problems, a landmark case according to the expert lawyer.
“Without doubt, the world has changed in recent years and the risks associated with concussion and traumatic brain injury have already been the foundations of huge litigation in the US, and even further back following the Chris Eubank boxing fight with Michael Watson,” he said.
“We now have very clear examples of how the courts may be expected to react when legal cases are launched relating to concussion related illnesses in a sporting context, so the warning is clear.
“It is all about the duty of care to players, and it is fair to say the dangers relating to concussion have now been long known and increasingly accepted. That is something all sports bodies have to be well aware of.”
Delegates at the seminar will also hear from Professor Huw Williams, an Associate Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology and Co-Director of the Centre for Clinical Neuropsychology Research (CCNR) at Exeter University.
His team has been working with the Exeter Chiefs Rugby Club the Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC) Harvard Medical School, and Imperial College, to study what happens to the brain of a player when they are concussed.
“Sadly, there have been recent examples of young athletes losing their lives in contact sports when they have seemed to have “played on” after multiple concussions. It’s vital that concussion are picked up, and players given time to recover before returning to play,” he said.
There is a well-known saying that no head injury is too severe to despair of, nor too trivial to ignore – and that is very much the case with concussion.
When players suffer a major traumatic brain injury (TBI), doctors responsible for their ongoing health have an excellent understanding and management of their future care needs due to the serious nature of the injury suffered.
However, what about the players who suffer minor injuries, or repeated minor injuries such as concussion?
“When someone suffers a blow to the head, typically there may be no lasting damage, but, in some cases there might be. Even after the player has shaken off the initial symptoms.
“Effectively, people currently making the decisions on player health may not fully know what the long term impact of repeated minor head injuries may be.”
Dr Michael Turner, Medical Director, International Concussion & Head Injury Research Foundation
The International Concussion and Head Injury Research Foundation (ICHIRF) is devoted to research into the possible long-term effects of concussion amongst retired sportsmen and women.
Michael recently retired as Chief Medical Adviser (CMA) to the Lawn Tennis Association, a post he held from 1994, and retired from the same role with British Horseracing in 2013, after 21 years in office.
Prior to that he was CMA to the British Snowsports (1995-2000) and a member of the Medical Committee of the International Ski Federation.
He was the Director of Medical Services at the British Olympic Association between 1989 and 1994 and Team GB Medical Officer at the Calgary 1988, Albertville 1992 and Lillehammer 1994 Winter Olympic Games.
Professor Huw Williams, Associate Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology
As an Associate Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology and Co-Director of the Centre for Clinical Neuropsychology Research (CCNR) at Exeter University, Huw has honorary positions with the Oliver Zangwill Centre (OZC) for Neuropsychological Rehabilitation in Ely and the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital’s Emergency Department. His current work incudes tracking the effects of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) and Acute Stress Disorder on Post-Concussion Syndrome, Computerised Neurocognitive testing of MTBI patients to predict outcomes in sports and neuroimaging of elite concussed rugby players and processing of emotions after brain injury.
Jonathan Hand, Barrister, Outer Temple Chambers
A specialist personal injury barrister with specific expertise in catastrophic brain and spinal injuries, Jonathan has represented clients injured in sport, including a claim for a former international youth athlete against a coach in relation to vertebral stress fractures alleged to have been sustained during training and which ended his career. He has a particular specialism in equine litigation, and his cases have included claims by a rider who suffered severe head injury causing blindness in a fall from a horse when riding in an outdoor arena and by an individual left with a severe brain injury when kicked by a horse during covering at a stud. Liability issues in such cases focused on the duty of care to the claimants to protect their health during these activities.
Josie Robinson, Senior Solicitor, Hudgell Solicitors
A dual-qualified solicitor and physiotherapist, Josie represents professional sports men and women who have received negligent medical care following injury which impacts on their performance, can lead to the end of their career, substantial loss of earnings, and at worst, ill health. Her medical knowledge and clinical experience means she is well placed to represent sports competitors complex medical issues are considered in legal claims by expert doctors and other health care professionals
Concussion in Sport: Do players have the protection and information they need?
Wednesday 21st March 2018, Outer Temple Chambers, 222 Strand, London, 5.45pm to 8pm
To attend contact Lori-Louise Boyton on firstname.lastname@example.org and (01482) 380780