MPs to probe possible connection between some sports and long-term brain trauma

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A UK parliamentary investigation into potential links between sport and long-term brain injury has been launched.

MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee will call witnesses to examine the issue, starting from next Tuesday.

It comes at a time when legal actions across football and both rugby codes are being considered or have been launched, and follows the 2019 FIELD study which found professional footballers were three and a half times more likely to die of neurodegenerative disease than age-matched members of the population.

England 1966 World Cup winner Sir Bobby Charlton’s dementia diagnosis was confirmed last year, while four other members of the team – Nobby Stiles, Jack Charlton, Martin Peters and Ray Wilson all suffering with dementia at the time of their deaths.

DCMS committee chair Julian Knight said: “This inquiry will consider scientific evidence to link sport with the incidence of long-term brain injury.

“We will look particularly at what role national governing bodies should be taking and their responsibilities to understand risks involved for players and what actions might be taken to mitigate them.

“We’re seeing a number of cases involving brain injury in sport likely to reach the doors of our law courts and we will also look at the implications for sport in the longer term of any successful legal claim.”



England manager Gareth Southgate has joined a study into the injuries

Some players have also launched an action against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union. It is backed by former England international Steve Thompson who is suffering from early onset dementia. He says he has no recollection of winning the World Cup with his country in 2003.

Similar actions are being considered in football and rugby league.

The Football Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association are funding further studies to examine any connection between playing the game professionally and neurodegenerative disorders, with England manager Gareth Southgate part of a study being conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

One of the lead academics on that study, Professor Neil Pearce, told the PA news agency last month that organisers were still looking for around 100 further participants. Any PFA members aged 50 or over would be eligible, he said.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said: “Encouraging progress is being made in our understanding of head injuries in sports with the significant research that is under way.

“With the clear commitment to work together shown by all governing bodies and health professionals, I am confident we will make swift progress in improving the welfare of our present and future sports stars.

“Now is the time to form a coherent approach – to prevent the risk and potentially devastating impact of head injuries at elite and grassroots level, and protect the sports we love.”



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