In the recent BBC documentary ‘Shane Williams: rugby, concussion and me’, Shane Williams, the former Welsh rugby union player, explores the long term effect of repeated concussion on rugby players.
Shane Williams starts by focusing on his own experience, recalling the various concussions and head injuries he suffered throughout his career and then agrees to undergo investigations to ascertain whether this has had any impact on him by undergoing brain scans and cognitive tests.
He speaks to John Shaw, former Scottish rugby union player, who spoke about his experience following a rugby career which involved numerous impacts to his head. John Shaw reveals that he now requires memory aids and writes everything down. His wife explains that he used to be an outgoing and sociable person however has experienced a difference in personality following his rugby career. They attribute this to the head impacts he suffered.
Kat Merchant, former women’s England rugby union player, also speaks about the effect that numerous concussions during her rugby career has had on her daily life. She describes experiencing reduced capacity which results in headaches, if she overdoes it. She also suffers mood swings and an impact on decision making.
The documentary also highlighted that as the strength and speed of rugby players increases, so does the risk of severe injury. Throughout the programme Shane Williams battles with his love of the game against the increased risks that come with high speed powerful tackles and collisions.
He meets with Doctor Bennett Omalu who has carried out a significant amount of research and claims to have discovered CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) amongst NFL players; a brain condition which is caused by numerous impacts to the head and results in symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease such as memory loss, disorientation and difficulty making decisions. For this reason, Dr Omalu is of the opinion that all contact sports should be discontinued due to the risk of brain damage and urges Shane Williams not to allow his children to play rugby.
The documentary touches on how brain injury can have different effects on different people. The symptoms can differ greatly, as can the severity of these symptoms.
What impact does brain injury have on everyday life?
It is common for the term brain injury to bring to mind the most severe symptoms such as paralysis, seizures or a coma.
However, the less ‘visible’ symptoms of brain injury can also have a great impact on daily life. For example, brain injury can result in a loss of balance which may cause falls, physical injury, and an impact on hand- eye coordination. This can affect the ability of somebody to drive or safely cook a meal. These are just a few symptoms that might be suffered. As specialist brain injury solicitors, we appreciate that no injury is ever the same will have different impacts upon different people.
The documentary reminds us that being unable to physically see an injury does not mean the damage does not exist. All of the symptoms experienced by the former rugby players featured; such as reduced mental capacity to concentrate, mood swings or impaired memory, can have an impact on decision making (depending on the severity of the symptoms and any other challenges an individual may face as a result of their brain injury).
Those whose decision making is impaired may benefit from assistance with financial decisions. This may be through a power of attorney or a deputy.
Where is a deputy appropriate?
A deputyship is appropriate where the individual concerned has lost the capacity to make the decision themselves about who should manage their finances. The Court of Protection appoints the deputy on behalf of the individual who has lost capacity. The appointed deputy may be a friend or family member or a professional, such as a lawyer.
Deputies tend to be appointed to make decisions of a financial nature. It is rare for the court to appoint a deputy for decisions regarding an individual’s health and welfare.
More information on deputyships, visit: Hugh James Court of Protection.