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Head injuries in sport: knowledge is power, but only money talks....

December 12, 2014 at 3:18 PM

We human beings are highly intelligent and innovative, and our abilities have enabled us to achieve great things - such as developing cures to many fatal diseases and even sending men to the moon.

In years gone by we did not know that cholera was caused by dirty water; but when we found out we innovated and created clean and efficient water networks in order to eradicate this disease in the UK.

Why is it then, when we discover the cause of something which is undesirable, such as a head injury or concussion, that innovation to prevent it is slow to materialise?

Think about the recent Ebola epidemic, which has now made it commercially viable for the big pharmaceutical companies to pump resources and money into developing a cure. Call me a cynic, but there is no question in my mind that in recent years the research and development currently being undertaken could have been completed had the will been there, resulting in hundreds if not thousands of lives saved in the current outbreak. Instead we are reacting to the outbreak.

Head Injuries in Cricket

Going back to the issue of head injuries it saddened me to learn of two recent deaths in the cricket world following incidents where a player and umpire were struck by the ball during play in what have been described as 'freak accidents'.

Cricker batsman hitting a ball

I accept that it is not possible to foresee every eventuality when engaging in sport, as everyone playing accepts some risk of injury, but it has surprised me to hear English clubs (interviewed in the media following the tragedy), suggesting that they will now review their player's equipment to ensure they have the latest technology to make them as safe as possible.

It is common knowledge that head injuries and concussion can have serious consequences, and even be fatal. Why then are sports clubs not ensuring proactively that their equipment is up to scratch? There are also many reports of massively increasing sales of cricket helmets at amateur level. It is important to acknowledge that, although clubs and governing bodies have a responsibility, we must all accept some personal responsibility for our actions and choices.

I am not suggesting that we should all stop engaging in sporting activities for fear of being injured in one way or another, far from it. Sport and being active have many widely known health and social benefits. I myself enjoy participating in sport and have undertaken dangerous activities both in Britain and abroad, but I have done so in the knowledge that I have ensured as far as I can that the risk of injury is as low as possible.

It is interesting that there is already widespread public concern regarding safety in some known dangerous situations (well justified in my view), for example, members of our armed forces being placed in the field of battle with inadequate or outdated equipment which increases the risk of them being injured or killed. Why then should we, both as individuals and collectively as a society, accept that those of us who participate in sport, professionally or at grass roots are not provided with the best possible protection against injury?

This doesn't have to involve expensive or overly restrictive equipment, it can be something as simple as changing the rules.

Legal action against FIFA

The BBC reported over the summer that a group of concerned parents in America started legal action against FIFA, calling not for compensation but rather for changes to the rules. Their sole aim is to reduce the risk of head injury and concussion for young players - which to me is a perfectly reasonable request. Following this, in September 2014 the New York Times reported that FIFA were indeed expected to make changes to rules regarding head injuries.

Across many sports the attitude towards head injury differs wildly, with some take it more seriously than others. In July 2014 I explored these vast differences in my piece on how different sports deal with head injury. There have been some small steps towards improving awareness and safety across sports, with cross sport international conferences staged to discuss the issue of concussion, and in July I commented that:

FIFA has held a number of international conferences on the issue of concussion in sport, attended by various sporting bodies such as the IRB, the Equestrian Federation and the International Olympic Committee. One outcome of these conferences has been the development of a pocket concussion recognition tool which is designed to assist anyone involved in sport to recognise and effectively treat concussion and head injury. It is not clear how widely available this guide is, or whether it is utilised, particularly at grass roots level (or indeed at international level).

Without properly enforced sanctions a pocket guide simply isn't worth the paper it's written on.

Onfield or sideline evaluation of concussions

Surely, as intelligent human beings, we can all see it is now time to ensure across all sports that the risk of serious injury is reduced and obvious dangers are eliminated as far as possible? The tragic recent events only serve to illustrate that there is clearly a lot more that can be done both on an individual and corporate level to raise awareness, enforce rules and evolve these rules as knowledge improves.

The requirement to reduce obvious risk of injury should be mandatory, not a reaction to a tragic event when, for some, it is already too late.

 

About the author

Louisa Chambers PhotoLouisa Chambers is a Chartered Legal Executive and Solicitor within Spencers catastrophic injury team. Louisa has a great deal of experience in acting for clients who have suffered serious and life changing injuries through sports related accidents.

Louisa's previous blog was Fraudulent claims, just how big an issue are they?.

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Winter is coming, are you and your roads ready?

December 5, 2014 at 1:52 PM

During November's Road Safety Week, I was reminded of all the little maintenance tasks that needed to be done on my car.

Every driver knows the importance of getting their vehicle ready for the winter weather. From checking tyres to replacing wiper blades, there are plenty of simple steps that can improve a car's safety, performance and handling in bad weather.

While many safety precautions are within your control, a major aspect that isn't is the condition of the roads, as unfortunately a recent Streetwatch survey by the AA showed that 40% of respondents listed their local roads as being in a terrible condition.

So what are some of the major hazards and how can we make sure our roads are up to scratch?

tyre tracks in the snow

Season for Potholes

Potholes are more than a mere inconvenience or just a bump in the road. They can cause serious damage to your car and are a major hazard for motorcyclists and bicycle users. Last winter's heavy rainfall around the UK is still causing pothole problems and potholes are expected to be worse this year as the weather gets wetter and smaller potholes begin to grow.

While potholes can be reported to the Highways Agency and your local council, many motorists are finding that they are slow to act. Although the government did offer local authorities more funding for road repair earlier in the year, it simply wasn't enough to deal with the scale of road repairs required, with some reports stating there were 295 square miles of potholes in Britain.

What's more, with the recent austerity measures, many councils may not be able to pay out on claims made for damage to cars, or even injuries, which result from potholes. Even successful claimants are being made to wait, as the list of payments that need to be made grows more quickly than councils can afford to keep up with.

Effects of Poor Street Lighting

Another big problem that local authorities are struggling with is broken street lights. These often go unreported, leaving roads poorly lit for longer than necessary. Regular and routine inspections can take a long time, so it is always important to report any broken street lights to your local council.

With longer nights and dark morning commutes, many drivers can miss dangerous road conditions because of street lighting that doesn't work. These include potholes, ice patches, and minor flooding or puddles. Water on the road can be particularly dangerous as even a small puddle could conceal a large pothole underneath.

Street lighting also plays a vital part in spotting other road users as well as pedestrians.

Poorly lit street in winter

What can drivers do?

Along with reporting problems with the roads and keeping your vehicle in good condition, there are other steps you can take to avoid damage or injury in winter conditions:

Tyres - Along with checking your tread depth and fitting new tyres if needed, it is also important to maintain the correct tyre pressure at all times. Bad roads and changes in temperature will affect your tyre air pressure, so be sure to check this regularly.

Speed - It is important to adjust your speed for bad road conditions. Icy or wet roads require longer stopping distances, and reduced visibility from fog and broken street lighting also requires slower speeds. Driving slower can also help reduce the damage caused by potholes, as slower collision with potholes will generally involve less damage to your car.

Be Seen - If you've been putting off replacing that headlight bulb, now's the time to move it to the top of your to-do list. Likewise using your headlights whenever visibility is less than optimal (rain showers, early mornings, dusk etc). Motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists should also wear additional reflective clothing to ensure you are easily seen.

Finally we need to take on board the central message of road safety week and look out for each other.

Commuting to work or doing the school run can be stressful when done in ideal conditions, so when the weather turns and traffic builds up we all need to be especially considerate, careful and patient with our fellow road users, as well as ensuring our own vehicle and local roads are in top condition.

 

Are you happy with the state of your local roads? What are your top tips for driving in winter?

 

About the author

Martyn Gilbert photoMartyn Gilbert is the Chief Information Officer at Spencers Solicitors and has worked in the legal industry for over 17 years developing systems and processes to assist lawyers in helping injured people. Martyn's last blog was What has Health and Safety ever done for us?

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Spencers Solicitors calls for businesses to take action on road safety

November 19, 2014 at 4:28 PM

Spencers Solicitors are pleased to announce their support of Road Safety Week, in conjunction with Brake, the road safety charity.

We love road safety week banner

Road Safety Week is the UK's biggest road safety event, involving thousands of schools, businesses and community groups every year. This year's RSW runs from 17-23 November, and to mark the occasion, Spencers Solicitors held an office 'Bright Day' where the whole team wore their brightest and most florescent clothing to work, in an effort to raise funds and awareness for the charity.

Staff from the firm have also signed up to the 'Brake Pledge' in order to help make the roads safer. The Brake Pledge encourages road safety awareness by including promises to: slow down to 20mph around schools, avoid overtaking, get eye tests every two years, and minimise as much as possible the amount of journeys taken by car.

Sarah-Jane Martin, from Brake said:

"It is fantastic that Spencers are supporting Road Safety Week. The misery of road deaths and injuries, as well as the pollution caused by vehicles, is a blight that we must work to end. Road Safety Week aims to inspire communities to take action on road safety and promote life-saving messages - that people need to tune in to road safety. We are really pleased that a firm like Spencers Solicitors are backing our cause and we hope that it encourages others to do the same."

Martyn Gilbert Photo

In an effort to help combat road collisions, Spencers have also offered staff free reflective gear for any who make the choice to cycle to work. Now, Spencers Solicitors are calling on other businesses to follow suit.

"We felt that it was an extremely important campaign to get involved in," said Martyn Gilbert from Spencers Solicitors. "By taking these small measures, by committing ourselves to the Brake Pledge, we can really help improve safety for our local community and we would encourage other companies in the Derbyshire area commit themselves to road safety too."

Spencers team in bright clothes holding Bright Day posters

Spencers accounts team dressing bright clothes and wig taking part in Bright Day

To find out more about Brake and the invaluable work they do, visit www.brake.org.uk and follow @Brakecharity on twitter.

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