February 1, 2021

(Reuters) – Former athletes and leaders from major UK sports will discuss the impact of head injuries and efforts to improve player welfare across two virtual summits with government ministers next week.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden and Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston will lead the roundtable meetings, with attendees also set to include campaigners for research into concussion-related injuries.

Former Tottenham Hotspur and England footballer Les Ferdinand, former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan and England rugby union World Cup winner Matt Dawson are among those invited for the first virtual summit on Tuesday.

Former Spurs and Hull footballer Ryan Mason, who was forced into early retirement in 2017 after fracturing his skull, will also share his experience.

The second virtual meeting is expected to have senior leaders from governing bodies in football, rugby union, rugby league, cricket, boxing and taekwondo in attendance, alongside Health and Social Care and Department for Education.

“The safety and wellbeing of everyone taking part in sport is absolutely paramount,” Dowden said.

“I am worried that this could become a looming problem for British sport, so it’s right we come together, look at the evidence and processes we have and agree a way forward to protect the stars of today and tomorrow.”

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 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.

(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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