Bobbie Goulding in group of ex-rugby league internationals to sue over brain damage

As St Helens captain, Goulding won both the Super League and Challenge Cup doubles in 1996
Ten ex-rugby league players, including Bobbie Goulding (ex-Great Britain scrum half), claim that the sport has caused brain damage.

Lawyers claim that all the players have "neurological complications".

They are also planning to sue the Rugby Football League for negligence.

This follows similar actions by rugby union players, including Steve Thompson, the winner of the England World Cup.

Goulding was recently diagnosed with early-onset dementia. He said that there wasn't enough protection for those who have suffered from head injuries.

49-year old St Helens captain who won the Super League/Challenge Cup double in 1996, claimed he had been unconscious for at least three days and played again.

A test group of 10 players is also being formed, including former Wales international Michael Edwards (48), and Jason Roach (50) and Ryan MacDonald (43). The test group includes Ryan MacDonald and Ryan Roach, both from Scotland. They have all been diagnosed with early-onset dementia.

Richard Boardman, their lawyer, stated that he represented 50 former rugby league players aged 20 to 50, all of whom have neurological symptoms.

In a separate suit, he is representing 175 ex-rugby union players, which includes Thompson.

Boardman stated that the legal claim did not only concern financial compensation but also making the game more safe and getting urgent medical support.

He stated that there could be hundreds of ex-players in rugby league who were experiencing neurological problems as they grew older, including CTE (chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), epilepsy and Parkinson's disease.

Boardman stated that the vast majority of former players he represents love the game and don’t want it to be damaged in any way.

They just want it to be safer for future generations. We are asking the RFL for immediate, relatively inexpensive changes to save the sport. These include limiting contact during training and extending the time it takes to return to play after a concussion.

The high risk of permanent or serious brain damage from concussions is a major concern for former players. They claim that the RFL owes them, as professional players, a duty to ensure their safety.

Boardman said that the group felt that the RFL should have created and implemented rules for the diagnosis, treatment and assessment of concussive injury.

The RFL stated in a statement that they had been contacted recently by solicitors representing former players.

"The RFL takes player welfare and safety very seriously. We are saddened to learn about the difficulties of former players.

"Rugby league, a contact sport, is extremely risky. Player welfare is paramount."

"The sport of rugby league continues its efforts to improve and enhance its approach to concussion and head injury assessment, education and management, and prevention throughout the game. To strengthen and improve our approach, we will continue to use medical evidence as well as research."

"I had no doctor check on my after knockout"

Goulding was a Wigan, Leeds and Widnes player, as well as winning 17 caps for Great Britain. He represented England five times, including in the 1995 World Cup final. The following year, he was named to the Super League team.

He has spoken out about his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction since retiring in 2005, then again nine years later, after a brief return with Barrow Raiders.

Goulding spoke out about his diagnosis of dementia. He said that it was hard for him to accept something like this.

"I didn’t think about dementia at any point, I just thought that it was a normal part of life.

"I was able to play within days of serious knockouts at least three times. I can still remember playing for Leigh at Huddersfield on Sunday towards the end my career [in 2002].

"I was admitted to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary the Sunday after I was seriously injured and then played against Batley the Saturday. I did not have any doctor visits during that week.

How can you diagnose CTE?

Many former players of rugby league who are part of this legal case have been diagnosed as having early-onset dementia and possible CTE.

CTE was the brain disease that Dr Bennet Omalu discovered in Mike Webster, an American football player. It is also the subject of the movie Concussion starring Will Smith. A group of ex-American footballers filed a class action against NFL in 2011 and received a settlement amounting to $1bn (700m).

CTE is a condition in which the brain is exposed to many small blows or rapid movements. Sometimes known as sub-concussions, it can lead to memory loss, depression, and progressive dementia.

Only after death can the disease be diagnosed.

It was found in the brains dozens of NFL players as well as some deceased footballers such as Jeff Astle, a former West Bromwich Albion player and England striker. In 2014, a reexamination of his brain revealed that he had CTE.

Over the last few years, the issue of concussion has been extensively debated. The links between football and degenerative brain diseases have even led to rule changes at youth levels.

Children under 11 years old are not allowed to play with a ball in England, Scotland, or Northern Ireland. There are also restrictions on the frequency of heading at higher levels.

Former professionals at senior levels have called for better player welfare and research after Nobby Stiles' death in England World Cup. They also received news that Sir Bobby Charlton, his 1966 Manchester United team-mate, is also suffering from the disease.

Here are more details about dementia and information on organizations that can assist you.

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