Concussion in sport: Rugby and football must prioritise player safety – Scotsman comment

Humans have a tendency to believe that the way things have always been done is perfectly fine.

England international Steve Thompson, seen during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, has early-onset dementia and now wishes he never became a professional rugby player (Picture: David Rogers/Getty Images)

So there is almost always a degree of resistance to any proposal for major change, whether it be the smoking ban, which became hugely popular almost from day one, or the switch to electric cars.

This may help explain why it has taken us so long to wake up to the dangers of concussion in sport and the neurological problems, such as dementia, experienced by football and rugby players in later life.

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Rugby faces legal challenge on concussion from former players

Now a group of former rugby internationals, including England’s World Cup winner Steve Thompson, who cannot remember playing in the 2003 final or even being in Australia for the tournament, are planning legal action against the game’s authorities, alleging they were negligent over the brain injuries that the players suffered. They have also drawn up 15 'commandments' which they believe would make the game safer.

Thompson, 42, who has early-onset dementia, now wishes he had never turned professional. Passing out during training, he said, was just an “accepted part and parcel” of the game.

Rugby and football may both be big business but they are still just games, played for enjoyment and to entertain.

Whatever the merits of the legal case, both these sports and others in which physical contact occurs need to remember that.

Contact sport can never be entirely risk-free but governing bodies need to ensure that they take all the necessary steps to minimise the risks to players. And if that means major changes must be made, so be it.

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