Men in a rugby scrum playing rugby on a rugby field

The very real risks of contact sports injuries

Contact sport, by the very nature of the name, describes a sport that requires physical contact between two players. Common contact sports include rugby, boxing and wrestling. Sports such as football and hockey are classed as semi-contact sports. Injuries are common in all areas of sport, but do we really know the risks involved?

Injury rates in professional rugby are higher than many other contact sports; they are often life-changing and occasionally fatal.

Although the injuries themselves might not always be fatal, the debilitating consequences of catastrophic injuries can be tragic. One young Worcester man who suffered a collapsed spine in a scrum during a training session which left him paralysed from the chest down, later made the agonising decision to fly to Switzerland to end his own life at an assisted suicide clinic.

The repeated head trauma experienced by rugby players, wrestlers and boxers may put them at risk of ‘chronic traumatic encephalopathy’ (CTE), more commonly known as ‘punch-drunk syndrome’. CTE is a progressive degenerative brain disease which can result in depression, memory loss and blood clots. Symptoms generally appear years or decades after the trauma, making it incredibly hard to diagnose. Currently, CTE can only be solidly diagnosed after death.

Peter Savage, partner at Medical Accident Group said: “As head of the personal injury team, and with 20 years’ experience, I think I have come across almost every possible likelihood in sports related injuries.“

Both contact and non-contact sports come with risks, and often there can be a variety of things at fault. Injuries caused by faulty equipment are common, as are injuries caused by illegal tackles and assault on the field. Many players accept injury as part of the risk they take, but many injuries can be avoided.”

Head trauma in contact sports is known sometimes to cause Parkinson’s disease. Boxing legend Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and his boxing career was thought to have contributed heavily to his diagnosis.

Concussion is also rife within contact sports. An uncomplicated concussion is not particularly dangerous and can be treated. A more complicated concussion can result in a tear of a blood vessel under the skull and which can cause a growing accumulation of blood that will gradually cause the brain to become displaced.

Rather more alarming than concussion is the small, but real, risk of “second-impact syndrome”, when a second head injury happens before an earlier one has healed. This can cause rapid brain swelling, permanent brain damage and even death.

Have you been injured whilst playing a professional or amateur sport?

Medical Accident Group is a team of specialist clinical negligence and personal injury solicitors, with experience in dealing with every aspect of sport related injury. If you believe you have a claim, call us on 0800 050 1668, or fill in the form below.

Men in a rugby scrum playing rugby on a rugby field Men in a rugby scrum playing rugby on a rugby field

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Meet the Team

Peter Savage, Partner

Having started his legal career in Northern Ireland around 20 years ago, Peter has since worked in personal injury and clinical negligence. He fights for clients who have suffered significant injuries, including brain and spinal injury, fatal claims, and claims involving children. Compensation is important, but Peter also works hard to ensure his clients have all the elements of care and support they need.

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