Recently, Socialist Courier, touched on the fact that health and safety of rugby players are deliberately overlooked. Once again more facts are being produced about the long term health risks of contact sports and once again it focusses on head injuries and concussion.
A brain injuries expert has discovered what he believes to be the first confirmed case of early onset dementia caused by playing rugby.
Dr Willie Stewart said the discovery suggested "one or two" players competing in the Six Nations every year may go on to develop the condition.
He examined sections of brain tissue for abnormal proteins associated with head injuries and dementia.The former rugby player had higher levels than a retired amateur boxer.
The boxer had been diagnosed with dementia pugilistica - more commonly known as punch drunk syndrome - which is thought to affect up to 20% of boxers who retire after long careers. Symptoms, which usually appear between 12 and 16 years after the boxer's career begins, can include memory, speech and personality problems, tremors and a lack of coordination. The condition has been recognised for more than a century, and until recently had been thought to only affect boxers who suffered repeated concussive injuries through being punched in the face.
But Dr Stewart said: "What we are finding now is that it is not just in boxers. We are seeing it in other sports where athletes are exposed to head injury in high levels.Those sports include American football, ice hockey and also now I have to say I have seen a case, the same pathology, in somebody whose exposure was rugby."
Obviously the positives of team sports such as rugby outweigh the negatives they also carry but when sport becomes an industry and the individual participants welfare becomes secondary to that industry's interests than our position is that an injury to one, is an injury to all. That entails all means are used to minimise risk and and eliminate lasting physical damage and the profits and costs be damned!