Dementia victim Scarbrough joins rugby players' legal case

Dan Scarbrough (centre) is the latest high profile rugby player to take action over head injuries he suffered as a player
Dan Scarbrough (centre) is the latest high profile rugby player to take action over head injuries he suffered as a player ALEXANDER JOE AFP
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London (AFP)

Former England international Dan Scarbrough said Monday he had joined a legal case against several rugby authorities over their alleged failure to protect players from the risks of concussion.

The 43-year-old Scarbrough was diagnosed in December with a traumatic brain injury, early onset dementia and probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy - a neurodegenerative disease.

Scarbrough has now linked up with a group of eight former players, including England's 2003 World Cup-winning hooker Steve Thompson and Wales' Alix Popham, who are taking action against World Rugby, England's Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union.

"I became involved to access specialist treatment and to gain an understanding of what was happening to me," Scarbrough told the Press Association.

Now head of rugby at Bradford Grammar School in northern England, he added: "One of the main drivers for this action, and for speaking out, is to help other former professionals gain access to elite level treatment and deal with injuries sustained throughout our careers, which is effectively cut off once you retire.

"The governing bodies have a responsibility to look after us post-retirement. Yet, prevention is better than cure.

"I knew what it was doing to my body, I just didn't realise what it was doing to my brain. My biggest issue now is memory loss.

"I also want to ensure that there are clear measures in place to protect the game at grass roots level and continue to increase the safety of the sport, across all levels, particularly in relation to head injuries."

The basis of the players' claim is that the governing bodies failed to provide sufficient protection when the risks of concussions and sub-concussive injuries were "known and foreseeable".

Discussions between the law firm representing the players and the rugby authorities concerned are ongoing.

While not commenting directly on the case, World Rugby chief medical officer Eanna Falvey told AFP last month that concussion, now a major talking point within the game, was being taken seriously by the sport's officials.

"There are many unknowns when it comes to the long-term effects of concussion in general, which is why we take a prevention-first approach," he said.

"Unfortunately a lot of the upsetting and scary stories which are published tend to drive the narrative, to inform the debate.

"We need evidence where there are gaps to fill and that is where we are at the moment," Falvey added.