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10 former British stars plan to sue Rugby League over brain damage negligence

Super League icon Bobbie Goulding is one of 10 former Super League stars planning to sue the Rugby Football League after suffering “neurological complications” as a result of their playing careers

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British rugby league legend Bobbie Goulding is one of 10 former professionals planning to sue the Rugby Football League for negligence, claiming their playing careers have left them with brain damage.

Former England and Great Britain scrum-half Goulding—who won the 1996 Super League title and four Challenge Cups —was diagnosed with early onset dementia last month at the age of 49.

The lawsuit could establish a precedent in rugby league and mirrors a similar case in rugby union, with 2003 Rugby World Cup winner Steve Thompson fronting another group suing for neglect.

Along with Goulding, ex-Wales prop Mike Edwards, 48, and former Scotland internationals Jason Roach, 50, and Ryan MacDonald, 43, are part of a 10-person test group, each of whom have early onset dementia.

Lawyer Richard Boardman is representing both cases and said another 50 former rugby league professionals, with ages ranging from their 20s to 50s, are suing after “showing symptoms associated with neurological complications.”



Former England and Great Britain scrum-half Bobbie Goulding—nicknamed ‘Bobbie Dazzler’—is one of numerous ex-pros who plan to sue the RFL
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Image:

Michael Steele/Getty Images)




Those include issues such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease, Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition linked to repeat concussions and head trauma, which can only be confirmed post-mortem.

The RFL released a statement acknowledging contact from legal representatives of those former players in question, insisting player welfare is a top priority.

“The Rugby Football League has recently been contacted by solicitors representing a number of former players,” the statement read.

“The RFL takes player safety and welfare extremely seriously and has been saddened to hear about some of the former players’ difficulties.

Do you think rugby league does enough to safeguard its players from long-term damage? Let us know in the comments section.



Bobbie Goulding stands only 5’6″ and became accustomed to tackling much larger opponents
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Image:

Stu Forster /Allsport)




“Rugby league is a contact sport and, while there is an element of risk to playing any sport, player welfare is always of paramount importance.

“As a result of scientific knowledge, the sport of rugby league continues to improve and develop its approach to concussion, head injury assessment, education, management and prevention across the whole game. We will continue to use medical evidence and research to reinforce and enhance our approach.”

Goulding played for 18 seasons across two separate stints in rugby league, first retiring in 2005 before a brief comeback nine years later.

The 49-year-old has opened up on his struggles with alcohol and drug addiction in the past, detailing the lack of safety provisions he faced following serious head injuries during his career.

“For something like this to come out of the blue, and hit me like a bus, is hard to take,” he said.

“I didn’t think about dementia at all, I just thought it was the way life was.



Former England rugby union star Steve Thompson is also suing for neglect after being diagnosed with early onset dementia
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Image:

AFP via Getty Images)




“I played within days of serious knockouts on at least three occasions. I remember playing on a Sunday for Leigh at Huddersfield towards the end of my career [in 2002].

“I was in Huddersfield Royal Infirmary on the Sunday night after being seriously knocked out and played the following Saturday against Batley. I didn’t have one doctor check on me during that week.”

Former Oldham and Swinton star Edwards recalled how he suddenly “went to pieces” almost overnight, going from completing super marathons in the Sahara desert to becoming clumsy and prone to headaches.



Mike Edwards has also been diagnosed with early onset dementia




The test group argued the RFL owed them, “as individual professional players, a duty to take reasonable care for their safety by establishing and implementing rules in respect of the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of actual or suspected concussive and sub-concussive injuries.”

Rylands Law representative Boardman went on say the lawsuit is not solely about financial remuneration, but helping to safeguard the sport for younger generations, as well as providing proper support to ex-professionals.

A group of former NFL players were awarded roughly $1billion (around £700m) in 2013 as a result of a settlement from their own class action lawsuit against the league’s organisers.


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