Brain injuries from contact sports – should these be covered by the Health Service?

There is something different about professional contact sports, as opposed to amateur ones. The Roman Empire came to an end when the “games” became more important than ruling fairly and effectively. The spectacle became all important. People were killed. The film “Rollerball” (1979) shows how the same urges and competitive approach might be distorted in the modern world. This was developed further in “The Hunger Games” (2012). Is the Rugby World Cup, about to begin, going to lead to a lot of injuries, including neck and brain trauma? You bet… The most recent victim is Jonathan Thomas. Simon Thomas for Walesonline 15th September 2015 reports: Wales international Jonathan Thomas forced to retire by epilepsy as result of ‘multiple head injuries that have caused brain injury’ . 

It is becoming more and more evident that brain injuries and diseases such as Epilepsy and Parkinson’s, arise from contact sports – should these be covered by the Health Service? Boxing is deliberate harm to another persons brain, whilst other sports cause accidental collateral damage. The acute injury to a professional such as Lee Halfpenny is covered by their private medical insurance, but what about the long term care? If a system of deserts based rationing was acceptable, with notice of course, then could the long term costs  also be excluded from health service cover? Would this be ethical?

And cricket has it’s share of missile related injuries. Most recently to Eoin Morgan in the One Day International. Sports Injury Bulletin says Cricket is riskier than you may realise.… and there have been umpires and players killed in the last year. In Wales in 2009 an umpire was also killed..

Professional Contact Sports – should the Health Services cover them fully?

Is there a difference between accidental collateral damage caused by Horse Riding (a very high risk activity) or Trampolining, which are not contact sports but lead to serious injury, and those sports which deliberately encourage physical contact?

Recent press comments have suggested there is more and more support for deserts based rationing for say “weight related type two  diabetes”. Devon Health Board deserts based rationing – and political dishonesty & denial at Cabinet level at PMQs. And smokers: Overt (deserts based) rationing? – “NHS to ‘ration’ routine operations for obese people and smokers”.  It is official that veterans should be put to the top of Health Service queues: Care for UK military veterans is ‘flawed’, medical experts say – deserts based rationing endorsed but not implemented?  Couch Potatoes deserve deserts based rationing..  and then there is alcohol: 40% rise in liver disease deaths (over 12 years) – a case for deserts based rationing?

So why not get at professional contact sports – and insist they are covered by private medical insurance for both long and short term injury? This might encourage the rules to be changed, and the games to become safer..




This entry was posted in A Personal View, Rationing, Stories in the Media on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

One thought on “Brain injuries from contact sports – should these be covered by the Health Service?

  1. Pingback: Too many Rugby World Cup injuries? | NHS reality. An NHS soapbox. Speakers' corner for the NHS.

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