Jamie Cudmore: Former Clermont Auvergne player backing dementia-claim group
Author: Euan Bowen
Listening to my weekly Rugby podcast ‘ The good the bad and the rugby ‘ I normally log in for a giggle and a few good tales. This week however hit close to home with the concussion crisis in rugby taking centre stage in the discussion, with guest Jamie Cudmore joining Alex and Mike on the show. It hit home due to the work we are doing at HIT (Head Impact Trauma). Jamie Cudmore who through my fans eyes was the hard hitting, edge of the law gritty forward for Canada and formerly Heineken Cup winner with Clermont Auvergne. I had the perception that he would be a player who doesn’t care what happens after the game, he plays as the ultimate competitor.
In the show you learned that he was a national representative for skiing in his youth along with his brothers, far removed from the rugby player I knew of. What remains through his life is his competitiveness, whether you liked it or not he wanted to win and would do anything to achieve that goal. He alludes to his ongoing legal case against his former employer of 11 years and how it happened for the stalwart club custodian.
In it I highlighted the growing trend that speaks to the care needing to be taken for these players and seeing that the brain being injured needs to be treated in that moment like any other injury. If you have a concussion or any signs of one, You cant play on, it may be unsee but its still there. If you break your arm you cant play on so why, in his testimony on the podcast, did his coach and doctor provide the ultimate competitor the opportunity to re join the game after they suspected a concussion.
Cudmore went on to explain the sensitivity to bright lights, mood swings and the memory loss of that Heineken Cup final win that came from the mistreatment and management of his brain injury. If you have any suspected brain injury, ‘your out’ that’s his motto now when he continues coaching in Canada no debate, it’s a serious injury the same as any other.
His legal case continues the trend of former players stating they were aware that playing rugby their bodies would suffer and be stressed, they were never made aware of the ramification and devastating Neurological implications from the risk of brain injury.
The article by BBC sport follows; By Laura Scott – BBC Sport
Former Canada international Jamie Cudmore has been supporting the ex-players at the centre of rugby union’s dementia crisis, drawing on his landmark legal case against his old club.
The 42-year-old said he had been speaking to the group that includes England’s World Cup winner Steve Thompson for the past six months, “helping them along the way” as they prepare to launch a class action.
Cudmore is suing French side Clermont Auvergne, whom he played for from 2005-2016, over their alleged failure to protect him from serious injury when he returned to the pitch after suspected concussions during the 2015 Champions Cup.
In January 2019, a court-appointed neurologist found the club were responsible for the harm Cudmore suffered, and his case has the potential to have major ramifications on the game.
Speaking to BBC Sport, he said his case is “not a money grab” and he hopes it marks a “line in the sand” towards improving education around head injuries and prompting improvements to the safety of the sport.
It emerged last week that a group of about eight players – including Thompson, former England team-mate Michael Lipman and ex-Wales international Alix Popham – are planning legal action against the game’s authorities after being diagnosed with early signs of dementia.
I can’t remember England games at World Cup, says 2003 winner Thompson
It is understood a pre-legal letter of claim could go in as early as Tuesday.
“I’ve known about this process over the last six months, and the guys behind it,” said Cudmore.
“I’ve been speaking to them, not advising but helping along the way. Clearly it’s shocking for most people; for people inside the game not so much.
“It’s very alarming that now the wider public understand the depth that this problem really does go and how we need to do a hell of a lot better as professional sportsmen, as coaches, administrators, to protect players a lot better.
“I’d say good luck [to them]. Because I’ve done an incredible amount of research and the governing bodies haven’t done enough work in taking the data on, which is pretty much from the mid-70s.”
Cudmore, now coaching in Canada, said rugby is “a hell of a lot safer than it was” but there is room for improvement.
“It is a contact sport and I don’t want to change anything around that, but we can do a lot more about the treatment of concussion,” he said.
In light of his experience in 2015 – when it is thought he suffered from ‘second-impact syndrome’ – Cudmore warned mistakes around concussion can have tragic consequences.
“In my case I was puking in the changing room in the 67th minute of a game,” he said. “Do you really need to put the player back on? Well they did, they allowed me to go back on and unfortunately that’s not good enough.
“In this day and age, if you do that with a young child you can kill them and we’ve had numerous instances of this happening and nobody should get to that point in their sporting careers and be that injured by someone’s negligence.”
Cudmore hopes his case will conclude early next year.
Chris McLaughlin discussed more -BBC Sport
Rugby World Cup winner Steve Thompson and seven other former players claim the sport has left them with permanent brain damage – and are in the process of starting a claim against the game’s authorities for negligence.
Every member of the group has recently been diagnosed with the early signs of dementia, and they say repeated blows to the head are to blame.
Thompson, 42, played in every England match when they won the 2003 World Cup, but says: “I can’t remember any of those games. It’s frightening.”
It is understood a letter of claim, amounting to millions of pounds in damages, will be sent next week to the governing bodies for English and Welsh rugby and World Rugby – and a group class action could follow.
It is the first legal move of its kind in world rugby and, if successful, could force change to the way the game is played.
Lawyers for the group suggest another 80 former players between the ages of 25 and 55 are showing symptoms and have serious concerns.
Global governing body World Rugby told BBC Sport: “While not commenting on speculation, World Rugby takes player safety very seriously and implements injury-prevention strategies based on the latest available knowledge, research and evidence.”
The Rugby Football Union (RFU), which runs the sport in England, said: “The RFU has had no legal approach on this matter. The Union takes player safety very seriously and implements injury prevention and injury treatment strategies based on the latest research and evidence.
“The Union has played an instrumental role in establishing injury surveillance, concussion education and assessment, collaborating on research as well as supporting law changes and law application to ensure proactive management of player welfare.”
The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) said it “supported and endorsed the World Rugby comment on the subject”.
- ‘I don’t want to be a burden’ – how a 41-year-old ex-international is dealing with early onset dementia
World Cup memories have just gone – Thompson
Former hooker Thompson played 195 times for Northampton Saints before moving to France to play for Brive. He won 73 England caps, and three for the British and Irish Lions, in a nine-year international career.
He first retired in 2007 because of a serious neck injury but was given the all-clear to return, before being forced to retire again in December 2011 with the same problem.
Thompson, former England team-mate Michael Lipman, ex-Wales international Alix Popham and five other retired players are the first group to agree to – and have – testing.
Thompson says his condition is so progressed he cannot remember anything that happened in those 2003 World Cup games.
“It’s like I’m watching the game with England playing and I can see me there – but I wasn’t there, because it’s not me,” he said.
“It’s just bizarre. People talk about stories, and since the World Cup I’ve talked to the lads that were there, and you pick up stories, and then you can talk about it, but it’s not me being there, it’s not me doing it, because it’s just gone.”
Thompson is convinced constant head knocks during matches and training are to blame.
“When we first started going full-time in the mid-1990s, training sessions could quickly turn into full contact,” he said.
“There was one session when the scrummaging hadn’t gone quite right and they made us do a hundred live scrums. When it comes to it, we were like a bit of meat, really.
“The whole point of us doing this is to look after the young players coming through. I don’t want rugby to stop. It’s been able to give us so much, but we just want to make it safer. It can finish so quickly, and suddenly you’ve got your whole life in front of you.”
Thompson, who has four children, is frank about his fears for the future and open about some dark thoughts.
“When you are there alone, the number of times you just think to yourself it’s probably easier if you go, if I’m not here,” he said.
“You start to think, it’s not right to put them through that. That’s the difficult side to it.”
I don’t want to be a burden on my family – Popham
What is CTE & how can it be diagnosed?
All eight players to have come forward so far have been diagnosed by neurologists at King’s College, London, with early onset dementia and probable Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
CTE is the disease discovered by Dr Bennet Omalu in American football player Mike Webster, and the subject of the film Concussion starring Will Smith. In 2011, a group of former American football players started a class action against the NFL and won a settlement worth about $1bn (£700m).
CTE can develop when the brain is subjected to numerous small blows or rapid movements – sometimes known as sub-concussions – and is associated with symptoms such as memory loss, depression and progressive dementia.
The disease can only be diagnosed in a brain after death, but some experts believe if history of exposure is evaluated, it is reasonable to conclude that the risk increases. The embryonic nature of the science around the issue could play a key part in the success or failure of the overall case.
It has been found in the brains of dozens of former NFL players, as well as a handful of deceased footballers, including former West Bromwich Albion and England player Jeff Astle. A re-examination of his brain in 2014 found he had died from CTE.
Sub-concussions cannot be detected on the pitch or in any post-match examination.
Dr Ann McKee, from Boston University, is the leading neurologist in CTE and was instrumental in bringing about change in the NFL.
She and others have faced scepticism within sport, from those who believe more research is needed before further changes are introduced.
“There’s clearly a problem,” she told the BBC.
“We don’t know the magnitude of the problem, but as long as we insist that there is no problem, we’ll never get to the bottom of it.
“We’re just denying it and prolonging it and making sure that as many rugby players as possible get CTE.”
So how could the claim be proved?
If the case progresses to court, the group must prove the governing bodies have been guilty of negligence.
Richard Boardman, from law firm Rylands, is leading the action.
“We are now in a position where we believe the governing bodies across the rugby world are liable for failing to adequately protect their players on this particular issue,” he said.
“Depending on how many people come forward, the case could be worth tens of millions, maybe even hundreds of millions.
“Right now we’re representing over 100 former players but we expect many more to get in contact.”
Dr Willie Stewart, who with his team at Glasgow University has been leading research around dementia in football, is confident there is an issue in rugby union.
“There is no question if you look at the data across all the sports in all the regions whether they be football, rugby, American football, I’ve looked at brains from people from all these different sports.
“The difficulty we have is gathering enough experience from former rugby players to be able to say with certainty, but I think you would be foolish to ignore it. “
The issue of concussion in sport has been debated extensively over the past few years. The links between heading a football and degenerative brain disease have even forced rule changes at youth level.
In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, children aged 11 and under are no longer allowed to head the ball in training. There are also limits to heading frequency at higher age group levels.
At senior level, former professionals have called for more research and better player welfare after the recent death of England World Cup winner Nobby Stiles, and following the news that Stiles’ 1966 team-mate and Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton is suffering from the disease.