Campaign groups have welcomed the release of a damning new parliamentary report on the management of brain injury in sport.
The report, based on a four-month investigation by the Department of Digital, Media, Culture and Sport, calls for “urgent government action to address long-term failure to reduce the risk of brain injury in sport.” He strongly criticizes both the football association and the professional football association for “not fighting hard enough or publicly enough to address the issue of concussion” and recommends an urgent revision of the management of concussions across popular and professional sport in the UK.
“What is amazing is that when it comes to reducing the risk of brain injury, sport is allowed to mark its own homework,” said committee chairman Julian Knight MP. “The Health and Safety Executive is legally responsible, but risk management appears to have been delegated to national governing bodies such as the FA.
“This is a breach of duty that needs to change. The failure of these sports organizations to address the problem of acquired brain injury is compounded by the lack of government action. Too often it has failed to take action for the welfare of the players and instead relied on unaccountable sports organizations.
Judith Gates, a founder of the Head For Change charity, described the report as “a turning point, a first step in being open about the problem and taking steps to find solutions.” Gates said that while the report clearly shows that “mistakes have been made,” she believes that we “need to learn from them rather than blame them.” The focus should be twofold: immediate care for players who are currently suffering, but education and awareness of the dangers for future players. “
Former English scrum half Kyran Bracken said on behalf of the Progressive Rugby Group: “I really hope the results of the committee will mark a turning point in the approach to the management and research of concussions in sport and I expect sports organizations to work for be held accountable for the due diligence that their employees have to expect. ”Progressive Rugby also urged World Rugby to“ urgently address the current elite return-to-game protocols that we claim are not appropriate ”.
Steve Thompson, who said he did not remember winning the World Cup, is one of 175 rugby players who crack down on the RFU and other associations. Photo: Christopher Thomond / The Guardian
At the elite level, the DCMS report criticized UK Sport for running a system where “there is no overall responsibility to set minimum standards for concussions and head trauma” and which “fund sport as long as its protocols look good on paper”. . It also criticized the FA for not showing increased, sustained interest in the issue following the coroner’s ruling on Jeff Astle’s death from an occupational disease in 2002, and the PFA for not pressuring the FA , to do that. At the grassroots level, it criticized the NHS England for failing to keep full concussion records and for failing to ensure clinicians have the most up-to-date training.
Key recommendations include that the government should establish a UK minimum standard definition for concussions, as well as new protocols for concussions that all sports must use, and that the Health and Safety Committee should work with the national governing bodies of all sports to establish a national framework for reporting Creating sports injuries.
It also called for UK Sport to be given a leadership role to ensure that all sports it sponsors are effective in raising awareness of the dangers of concussion and that UK Sport is paid for a doctor to be responsible for that To ensure the safety of the participants every major sporting event.
Overall, the report recommends moving away from the conservative approach to exploring the issue advocated by the international Concussion in Sport Group, which currently underpins most UK policies, towards a more precautionary approach. He suggests that the government convene a dedicated concussion expert group every four years to review existing evidence on the long-term risks of concussion, and also recommends that the government set up a single fund to coordinate and pay for the research.
The report will be released on the same day as a landmark new study by the Drake Foundation and Imperial College in partnership with the Rugby Football Union. The study found that 23% of a group of 44 current elite rugby players had abnormalities in their brain structure, including small tears in their blood vessels and other “white matter” damage.
The Drake Foundation called for “additional updates to the game’s laws and protocols to minimize player exposure to head-butts.” The RFU has pledged more research as a priority and has pledged to “establish a specialized clinical service for the assessment and management of elite retired rugby players between the ages of 30 and 55 to assess their brain health individually”.
Richard Boardman of Rylands Law, the firm that represents a group of 175 rugby players – including former England striker Steve Thompson – who are suing the RFU and other governing bodies, said: “It is good to see stakeholders interested in the sport see the extent of this problem in the same way as we do. Namely, that those who have either played or are currently practicing contact sports with brain damage, especially at the elite level, are at an epidemic level. “
A 2003 World Champion, Thompson, was diagnosed with early-onset dementia at the age of 42 and told the Guardian in December last year, “It’s rugby that got me through this,” adding, “The crowd of headbangs that I had training. I was known for it. ‘Oh, he’s getting some sleep, he’ll get up in a minute.’ “