Brain damage concussion fears seep into rugby and soccer

Tue Nov 5, 2013 10:12am EST
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By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent

LONDON (Reuters) - Rugby and soccer players who suffer multiple knocks to the head during their careers are at added risk of brain damage that could lead to dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases, brain scientists are warning.

Just as some American football players and boxers have been found to have long-term cognitive deficits after suffering repeated head blows or concussions during play, so soccer and rugby players must be made aware of the same dangers.

"What happens is that when you have a big impact, your skull twists one way but your brain stays in the same place," said John Hardy, chair of Molecular Biology of Neurological Disease at University College London's Institute of Neurology.

These injuries, he said, common among boxers, American National Football League (NFL) and ice hockey players, as well as soccer and rugby players, can cause damage to the brain similar to abnormalities found in people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

"We need to minimize the risks by coming down very heavily on tackles and behaviors that are likely to cause rotational injury to the brain," Hardy said.


Such concerns have echoed across sport in recent days, particularly after English soccer club Tottenham Hotspur controversially allowed goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to play on even after he was knocked out in a collision with a striker.

Luke Griggs, a spokesman for the brain injury charity Headway, said the decision displayed an "irresponsible and cavalier attitude to a player's health". By playing on, he said, Lloris may have caused greater damage to his brain.   Continued...

Tottenham Hotspur's goalkeeper Hugo Lloris (L) lies injured after a collision with Everton's Romalu Lukaku (R) during their English Premier League soccer match at Goodison Park in Liverpool, northern England November 3, 2013. REUTERS/Phil Noble