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A costly drinking game

Many sports clubs, whether they are amateur or professional, have initiation ceremonies, bonding events and pre-season tours. Traditionally these have gone hand in hand with the consumption of alcohol. Players, support staff and clubs need to be aware of the potentially serious consequences of such behaviour as a momentary lapse in concentration or poor judgement can lead to a lifetime of consequences.

A recent case in point is that of former Saracens rugby player Matt Hankin who was part of a group that went on a pre-season tour of Budapest in 2015. During that tour Hankin, who was aged 28 at the time, claimed that he, along with fellow players, took part in a drinking game. As a result he was hit on the head with a fire extinguisher. The “tap” on the head was delivered by a fellow player Richard Barrington while Hankin was wearing a helmet. However Hankin suffered a concussion as a result of this.

When the tour ended Hankin returned to England and took part in one more rugby match during which he was unfortunately subject to another concussion. Prior to the game Hankin had been cleared as fit to play by the team doctor.

As a result of these two incidents Hankin suffered permanent symptoms which led to him having to retire from professional rugby. Hankin suffered from post-traumatic vestibular disorder and persistent post-traumatic vestibular migraines. Hankin brought a claim against his former teammate and the team doctor. The claim has now settled out of court for substantial damages to be paid by both Hankin’s teammate and the club doctor, even though there was no formal admission of liability.

This is a good example of the legal principle of the “eggshell skull” rule. This principle means that even if a person suffers more significant injuries than another person due to an underlaying weakness or vulnerability, the person who caused that injury is still responsible for the entirety of the injuries suffered. In other words you must take your “victim” as you find them.

This case is also pertinent as it comes at a time when there are increasing concerns about the long term effects of concussion injuries in sportspeople, especially rugby and football players.

 if you have any questions about any of these issues contact John Hasson in our Personal Injury team

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