Former Wales international Dafydd James has revealed his diagnosis of early onset dementia, joining a growing group of ex-sportsmen and women seeking legal action against the Rugby Football Union, World Rugby and the Welsh Rugby Union, who they allege were negligent in their duty to reduce risks of brain injury in athletes.
Currently 380 athletes are taking part in this legal action, including 100 former rugby league players, 40 rugby union and 15 footballers, with Colin Gibson and Nick Fozzard being notable ex-players who have spoken publicly. It follows the cases of names such as Ryan Jones, Steve Thompson and Carl Hayman, all of whom revealed their struggles with neurological impairments.
Those impairments range from post-concussion syndrome, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Dafydd James himself has been diagnosed with CTE, and hopes his story will help other athletes suffering from neurological issues. He wants people to understand the physical and mental wellbeing of athletes is important, but also is adamant that the sport should continue to thrive.
The defendants in this case, the Rugby Football Union, World Rugby and the Welsh Rugby Union, are taking steps towards making the sport a safer environment, however, with the joint statement, “we care deeply about every member of the rugby family,” and are “proactively funding transformational research, embracing innovation and exploring technology” which will help protect players.
As for the legal firm, Rylands Garth, they are involved in the group lawsuit and proclaim their claimants allege they “were neglected in failing to take reasonable action in order to protect players from permanent injury caused by repetitive concussive and sub-concussive blows.”
It is an important time for sports and the people who have played them, with Dafydd James being at the forefront of a potentially revolutionary case which could change the future of sports protection forever.