Tue 11 Jul 2023

Sporting Injuries - Could Head Injuries in Football be Considered an Industrial Injury?

Injuries sustained during sport are not uncommon, and over recent years the publicity around this matter has grown. Most recently, a number of high-profile footballers have brought attention to this topic through the "Injury Time" campaign. The goal of this campaign is to demand that brain injuries caused in football are classified as industrial injuries. It is reported that ex-professional footballers are up to three-and-a-half times more likely to develop dementia than others.

The campaign argues that ex-players who have developed dementia and other brain-conditions should be entitled to access to government benefits and care. It also calls for government funding for further research into practical and preventative support within football, at all levels. 

A study carried out by the University of Glasgow found that amongst footballers, goalkeepers were as likely as the rest of the population to suffer from a neurodegenerative disease, while outfield players were nearly four times as likely.

Individuals who suffer from industrial diseases, such as mesothelioma resulting from historic exposure to asbestos are entitled to funds through the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. The Injury Time campaign argues that those affected by sports-related dementia should be equally entitled.

Head injuries

There is a wide range of head injuries; the most serious examples include skull fractures, open wounds or permanent brain damage with a lifelong or fatal consequence. At the other end of the scale, the term 'head injury' can equally be applied to a minor concussion or superficial head wound with moderate swelling or skin breakage.  Despite these injuries appearing to be less serious, scientists at Cambridge University have recently reported that even a mild knock can cause long-lasting brain damage, with 45% of patients suffering symptoms at least six months following a mild concussion, also known as a mild traumatic brain injury.

Head injuries can be especially worrying because the symptoms of long-term brain damage may not be immediately obvious after the harm is first caused. In some cases, the effects of a head injury will take many years to develop fully.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are categorised as being either mild, moderate, or severe. It is well documented that those with a history of severe TBI are four-and-a-half times more likely to suffer from dementia. A number of studies are now reporting that there is also a link between a history moderate TBI and increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia. This places boxers, hockey players, and rugby players at increased risk. There is no evidence to suggest that a single mild instance of TBI increases dementia risk.

Sport injury claims

All sports come with an element of risk, and no athlete is immune from the possibility of injury. The difficulty in pursuing a claim for compensation following a sport injury is establishing liability. It is crucial in any personal injury claim to determine who is at fault, and whether the accident could have been avoided. For instance, in sports such as rugby, it can be very difficult to claim that a breach of duty has taken place, and that any injury sustained is not simply part of the game. Nonetheless, sports club have a responsibility to carry out regular health and safety checks to ensure their grounds and equipment are suitable. It is also very possible that the injury may be caused by the actions of another player. In these cases, it can be difficult to establish whether the individual is personally responsible, or whether the sports team is vicariously responsible.

Employer liability in professional sport

In cases where a sporting professional has suffered an injury, and their sports club has been negligent, it may be possible to pursue a claim for damages against the club as their employer. As with any other workplace injury, employers have a duty of care to their staff. Employers will have a duty to ensure that all reasonable and necessary precautions are put in place to reduce injury to the sporting profession. Employers are required to fully meet the duties they own to their sporting professionals. They ought to be aware of their duties and responsibilities, and the steps they can take to minimise exposure to potential liability. If employers are not carrying out regular health and safety checks and risk assessments, then they may be liable to their sporting professional for failing to comply with their duties.


The Morton Fraser MacRoberts Compensation Calculator illustrates the different categories of head injury, and the amount of compensation that may be payable to you, depending on the severity of the injury. These figures are based on previous decisions made by the Courts in Scotland, but the precise value of each case will depend on its own unique facts.

Morton Fraser MacRoberts' Personal Injury Team has extensive experience in pursuing all types of claims and we can provide you with advice on who is liable to pay compensation once we have discussed the facts and circumstances of your claim.

We will ensure you receive the appropriate amount of compensation for your injury. Our experienced Personal Injury team will take the time to assess your claim and help you get the compensation you are entitled to. Contact us today on 0131 247 1000.

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