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Landmark medical negligence claim after rugby player forced to retire

A rugby player is set to break new ground in medical negligence claims.

Cillian Willis, a former Sale Sharks scrum-half, is taking legal action against his team after head injuries prematurely ended his career.

While playing in a match against Saracens in March 2015, Willis was twice treated for head injuries, but was allowed to carry on playing until the 49th minute, when he was substituted. He never played professionally again, and was forced to retire aged just 28 years.  

According to the team’s website, Willis had been “tackled high and was attended to by the medical team… he got to his feet and resumed.” However, the report also stated that he was “struggling after his earlier injury.”

In the landmark case, Willis is the first professional sports player to sue their club for clinical negligence over concussion. The outcome of the case could pave the way for many other sports injury claims, although it could be up to 2 years before the case actually gets to court.

Concussion, known as the ‘invisible injury’ is rugby’s most common injury. Last month, Irish rugby player, Dave McSharry was also forced to retire on the advice of a neurologist, after suffering a concussion injury.

John McQuater, partner and head of litigation at Atherton Godfrey, said: “Concussion is typically caused by trauma to the brain and has been identified as a problem in several sports, not just rugby.  

The seriousness of a concussion injury should not be underestimated. The impact or jolting of the head causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull and can, in some cases, result in permanent damage to the delicate brain tissue.”    

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