Three Australian law firms say they plan to launch class actions against the National Rugby League (NRL) over its approach to dealing with concussion injuries after speaking to former players with health concerns. Mitry Lawyers said they had conducted an investigation over the past six months and spoken to players diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated concussions and hits to the head.
In the United States, the National Football League has faced lawsuits from multiple former players over the league's past handling of concussions and care for ailing retired players. "We have three players committed and we only need seven to launch a class action," Mitry Lawyers partner Rick Mitry told Reuters on Thursday. "We're expecting more will be involved in time." One of the players had "total memory loss", a second had developed Parkinson's disease, while a third was suffering headaches and dizziness, Mitry added.
The NRL, which has yet to respond to a request for comment by Reuters, has said concussion is "relatively common" in rugby league, noting there have been five-to-seven instances per team every season over the past four to five years. Like other Australian football codes, it has taken steps to strengthen concussion protocols in recent years, including a requirement to take players with suspected concussion off the field immediately and bar them from returning following a negative assessment by a doctor.
Bannister Law and Cahill Lawyers said they were planning joint legal action against the NRL after consulting former players over the past year. "The structures that have evolved within the NRL through the progression of the game, mean that we are looking at the clubs' and associations' liability for what are, we will allege, reasonably preventable brain injuries," Bannister Law principal Charles Bannister said in a statement.
"We will also allege that ARL, NRL and the clubs have had the resources both medical and paramedical to understand and implement protocols and policies that could and should have protected player welfare long before they were introduced." Concussion in the NRL has been brought into sharp focus following a heavy head knock to Sydney Roosters player Luke Keary in May which has sidelined the halfback for six weeks.
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