Willis sues Sharks over head injuries

Fri, 26 Aug 2016 13:51
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NEWS: Former Sale Sharks scrumhalf Cillian Willis is suing Premiership club Sale Sharks after sustaining two head injuries in 2013.

The injuries forced Willis to retire at the age of 28. He has accused Sale Sharks of "clinical negligence" over his career-ending concussion and is taking legal action against the club.  

During the first half of Sale's LV Cup semi-final against Saracens in March 2013, Willis was kicked in the head and then treated on the pitch by medics. The former scrumhalf was allowed to play on before picking up the second knock.   

With his head heavily bandaged, Willis was substituted in the 49th minute. He was assessed by medics for a second time and after some discussion - left the pitch.

According to Skysports.com a spokesperson for Sale Sharks refused to comment on the issue as it was an ongoing legal process. The Rugby Players Association also declined to comment on whether Willis has contacted them over the issue or not.   

This comes on the day that World Rugby announced new technology was used during the rugby sevens in Rio which identifies and assesses head injuries during matches.

The case, most likely to be held in Manchester, is not expected to be heard for at least 18 months.

Not only will the court case negatively effect the Sale Sharks but the Premiership coaches shared their fear that legal action could have a wider repercussion for rugby.

"It puts club medical staff and doctors in a very, very difficult situation," Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter told BBC Sport.

"If a player can suddenly turn around and start suing a rugby club, at what stage will it stop?

"I think the majority of past concussion situations have been dealt with very professionally and very well.

"My big concern is, are we going to create - if we are not very careful - a scenario for our medical staff where they are almost having to drag players off the field just in case? That's the big worry for me," Baxter stated.

While Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said: "If you put yourself in the shoes of the medic, it's almost an impossible job. Would they want to return someone to the field of play if they have been taken off for an assessment now?"

In 2014 the head injury assessment (HIA) was introduced, replacing the shorter and less comprehensive pitch-side concussion assessment (PSCA).

Any player who has suffered a head injury must have an HIA to determine whether they are fit to return to the field of play.

But McCall feels teams should be able to bring back on players who have been substituted on tactical grounds, in the event of a replacement suffering concussion.

"For us coaches, there is the possibility of being reduced to 14 men because a sub fails his concussion test.

"That is a ludicrous state of affairs. We want player safety, but it should be like a blood bin and we should be able to bring a replaced player back on the field and make sure teams stay at 15," McCall said.

Baxter added: "Everything is so grey, that to really protect yourself, you could easily see 10 HIAs in a game. We just have to be a bit careful about where it will end up,"

Wasps boss Dai Young said: "The Willis case could set a dangerous precedent. Let's hope it doesn't go down that path, but we all have total trust in our medics.

"We are all fully aware of concussion, but it is putting a lot of pressure on our medics now, and putting them under the microscope,"

Source: skysports.com & bbc.com

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