DURING lockdown many of us will have been relieved that elite sport has not ground to a halt - and has kept us entertained on our televisions.

Even with no crowds able to attend it has given many people interest and joy and at least some sense of normality.

Whether it’s top flight football, Test cricket, horseracing, or rugby, the competition between rivals has been as fierce as ever.

Of course we all look forward to the day when sports at all levels, including grassroots, and our local community pitches, courts and swimming pools can reopen so everyone can enjoy sport, and keep healthy and active.

But sadly where there’s sport, at whatever level, and in whatever discipline, there will always be serious injuries.

You may have seen in the news recently some rugby players are taking legal action against the game’s governing bodies over head injuries sustained during their playing days.

The claimants allege that the Rugby Football Union, Welsh Rugby Union Ltd and World Rugby owed them, as individual professional players, a duty to take reasonable care for their safety by establishing and implementing rules and regulations in respect of the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of actual or suspected concussive and sub-concussive injuries during match play and training sessions.

The governing bodies have a maximum of three months from the date of acknowledgement of the Letter of Claim to provide their initial responses. Former footballers have also pointed to repeated heading of the ball causing brain disorders in later life. A landmark study published in 2019 found footballers were five times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s and up to four times more likely to die from other degenerative brain disorders such as motor neurone disease and Parkinson’s. It led to a ban on under-12s heading the ball in training.

Equestrian events too can involve serious head injuries from seemingly innocuous looking falls.

Thankfully society is starting to take seriously the issue of concussion, which is a temporary injury to the brain caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head.

The Premier League has agreed to introduce concussion substitutes after football’s lawmakers, the International Football Association Board, approved the trials taking place in January 2021.

Headway, the Brain Injury Association, is raising awareness of concussion in sport, with its ‘if in doubt, sit it out’ campaign.

Signs of concussion to look out for include: dizziness; nausea; unsteadiness or imbalance; confusion; slurred speech; blurred or distorted vision. In about 10% of cases an individual may lose consciousness.

If any of these symptoms are experienced following a blow to the head, the player must be removed from the game to seek medical attention and not be allowed to return to the field of play. Graduated return to play (and training) protocols must then be observed, with a player only commencing physical activity once he or she has received medical clearance to do so.

If a player sustains another blow to the head before the brain has had a chance to recover from the initial concussion, the damage can be exacerbated to the point that it can be – on rare occasions – fatal. This is known as Second Impact Syndrome and it is believed to be most common among children and young adults.

It is impossible to know what damage has occurred in the immediate aftermath of a head injury. Symptoms may be delayed. Longer-term effects can include depression, anxiety and changes in behaviour.

At Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors we are highly experienced in cases involving serious brain injuries and we support greater awareness of concussion and head injuries whatever the sport, and whatever the level.

To contact Carol Fish, call 01228 516666.