A parliamentary investigation has been launched into the link between sports and long-term brain injury.
Members of the Digital Culture, Media and Sports Committee (DCMS) will call witnesses to examine the issue, starting next Tuesday.
It comes at a time when legal action is being taken or initiated in football and both rugby codes, followed by the FIELD 2019 study which found that professional footballers are three and a half times more likely to die from neurodegenerative disease than in age-matched populations.
The diagnosis of dementia by 1966 World Cup winner in England Sir Bobby Charlton was confirmed last year, while four other members of the party – Nobby Stiles, Jack Charlton, Martin Peters and Ray Wilson were suffering from dementia at the time of their deaths.
DCMS board chairman Julian Knight told Heavenly sports news: “We will take some evidence from players, from people who have participated in elite sports, as well as from those who are medically trained and governing bodies.
“We need to ensure that protocols have been followed in the past, but we also need to ensure that the protocols that go on are the right ones, and we will ensure that people do not suffer these injuries due to participating in the sport they love.
“I want to know more about this topic, as do my colleagues on the committee, and we want to make fact-based recommendations to the government, as well as sports bodies.”
A group of former rugby federation players have launched an action against the World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Federation.
The action, backed by Rylands Act, involves former English international Steve Thompson, who suffers from early dementia. He says he does not remember winning the World Cup with his country in 2003.
Similar actions are being considered in the football and rugby leagues.
“In the case of rugby, there’s a lot of talk about protocols before and after 2001,” Knight said. “We will not go into any things that will be things for the court.
“But at the same time what we want to do is explore all the issues and determine if there is any knowledge or is now following a duty of care that I think exists for all sports and has been monitored in the past.”
The direction guidelines last year were changed in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland to encourage coaches not to practice direction at all in training for children up to primary school age.
The working group is also considering the introduction of guidelines for professional play.
Concussions are being tested in the Premier League and FA Cup, in an attempt to ensure that players do not remain on the field with suspected concussions due to the suffering of secondary strokes.
The Football Association and the Association of Professional Footballers are providing funding for further research to examine the link between professional gaming and neurodegenerative disorders.
English football manager Gareth Southgate has agreed to be part of the ongoing HEADING study conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
One of the leading academics in that study, Professor Neil Pearce, said last month that organizers were still looking for about 100 more participants.
All PFA members aged 50 and over would be eligible, he said.
The committee said it would hear from individual players and governing bodies at a second session, following an initial hearing next Tuesday.
“We really want to be as inclusive as possible,” Knight added. “We want to hear as many organizations and as many individuals affected by this situation as possible.”
The DCMS hosted the second of two roundtables on head injuries in sports last week, and the government department questioned athletes, governing bodies and medics.
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “Encouraging progress has been made in our understanding of head injuries in sport with significant research underway.
“With a clear commitment to working together shown by all governing bodies and health professionals, I am confident that we will make rapid progress in improving the well-being of our current and future sports stars.
“Now is the time to form a coherent approach – to prevent the risk and potentially devastating impact of head injuries at the elite and core levels and to protect the sports we love.”