With the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia now underway, the spotlight shifts to rugby in the wake of the British football season.
What impact though, will the tour have on the head and brain injury concerns coming out of America at the moment? With rugby closer to American football than any other British sport, and with the average rate of injury around three times higher than in British football, is it rugby’s duty to help make the sport safer?
Currently, American football is mired in controversy concerning head and brain injuries, particularly concussions and the threat of CTE. However, such injuries aren’t exclusive to American football, and with the British and Irish Lions set to play Australia in the coming weeks, the focus shifts to rugby on an international scale.
The nature of the sports means there are some differences with regards to the levels of impact. The stop-start nature of American football breeds a high-velocity, singular impact, ‘big-hit’ mentality, whereas rugby as a more continuous, fluid sport incorporates a lesser individual intensity on a hit-by-hit basis, but greater endurance over time. Moreover, the higher proportion of padding and helmets in American football perversely increases the likelihood of major injury, much as in the same way that there have been more deaths in boxing since the introduction of gloves. The RFU did consider making headgear mandatory, but a 2009 Australian study concluded that padded headgear may make injuries worse and happen more frequently.
Concussions are classed as only the fourth most common injury in the sport, though research is currently lacking in the field, and this figure does not account for non-reporting. Additionally, the perception of rugby players as ‘warriors’ does not lend itself well to assessing head injuries, as players are less likely to leave the field of play if they believe they can just ‘snap out of it.’
In 2007 former New Zealand All Black Stephen Devine was forced to retire due to repeated concussions sustained over the course of his career. He claims his head injuries were affecting his personal life to the extent that he had to quit the sport to enjoy the other aspects of his life. You can see more on his struggle in the video below. Head injury claims such as these are on the increase as players become more aware of the dangers associated with them, as was the case with Bernard Jackman and John Fogarty in more recent times.
It will be interesting to see how the debate develops on a wider scale, and the impact it will have on all sports, particularly rugby. More research is required to be done into the effects of concussions and head injuries in relation to rugby, but awareness is growing, if slowly. Here at Blackwater Law we’re following all the developments closely so we can assess how best to deal with all our head injury claims. We deal with people from all walks of life, and the devastating impact that head and brain injuries can have means that we’re always looking to stay updated on changes in the field.
Everyone here at Blackwater Law would like to wish the Lions the very best success on their tour of Australia.