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U.K. Government launches enquiry into long-term impact of head injuries in sport

Former England hooker Steve Thompson has blamed a lack of protection in his playing days for his diagnosis of early onset dementia. Clive Rose/Getty Images

The U.K. Government has announced the launch of an enquiry into the long-term effects of head injuries in sport, and will discuss the latest scientific studies with governing bodies and athletes across two sessions starting next week.

The Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Committee will examine links between concussion and dementia and efforts to improve player welfare in professional sports, with the first session taking place on Mar. 9.

The committee will also take evidence on the implications for youth sport and funding requirements for further scientific research.

"We will look particularly at what role national governing bodies should be taking and their responsibilities to understand risks involved for players and what actions might be taken to mitigate them," Julian Knight, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Committee, said in a statement.

"We're seeing a number of cases involving brain injury in sport likely to reach the doors of our law courts, and we will also look at the implications for sport in the longer term of any successful legal claim."

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In January, Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and Nigel Huddleston, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Sport, Heritage and Tourism, led roundtable meetings with athletes and campaigners for research into concussion-related injuries.

Concussions and their long-term effects have been in the spotlight since former players filed a class-action lawsuit against governing bodies World Rugby, England's Rugby Football Union (RFU) and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) which alleges a failure to protect them from the risks.

Many have been diagnosed with permanent brain damage, early onset dementia, depression or symptoms and signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

In a joint statement in December, World Rugby, the RFU and the WRU said they took player safety very seriously.

"Rugby is a contact sport and while there is an element of risk to playing any sport, rugby takes player welfare extremely seriously and it continues to be our No. 1 priority," they said in the statement.

In 2013, the NFL agreed to pay damages that could amount to more than $1 billion over 65 years to resolve a host of concussion lawsuits from former players.

In football, Nobby Stiles and Jack Charlton, who were both members of England's 1966 World Cup-winning team, died of dementia last year, while Manchester United great Bobby Charlton has also been diagnosed with the condition.