Head injuries in sport, dementia, and planning ahead

April 27, 2021, By

Over the past few weeks, there has been some great news coverage around how research is making headway into understanding the impact of head injuries in sport. Equally, the Alzheimer’s Society has launched its ‘Sport United against Dementia’ campaign.

It is interesting to see both aspects of the discussion around how sports, dementia and head or brain injuries impact one another.

We explore the implications of potential injuries and illnesses, and what can be done to have peace of mind for whatever happens in the future. Read on to learn more about research into head injuries in sport and what you can do to plan ahead if you are more at risk.

Research and Support

The research by HIT into wearable tech to measure and record the impact of hits to the head, providing early warning notifications of the long term impact is fantastic. Identifying early on what is and is not going to have long term knock-on effects in sports players of all levels will help to further educate players and coaches about how to avoid lasting head injuries in the short and long term.

In a welcome addition to this news, Sport United Against Dementia launched recently and exists to remind us that sport brings us together. It helps people around the world to stay connected, whether they have a dementia diagnosis or are supporting a family member or friend living with it. This rings true to anybody linked with dementia, whether they are a sports fan, professional, or ex-player. Providing a safe place for people to talk about their experiences or voice their concerns is a key element of dementia support.

On the Alzheimer’s Society blog, Bill Bush, Premier League Executive Director and Sport United Against Dementia board member, said that this campaign will “build on the work of Premier League clubs to increase support for fans and communities and help to break down stigma and ensure millions more people access dementia support”.

Concerns in the sporting world

Toward the end of last year, former Rugby Union players came together to join a concussion lawsuit as former player Steve Thompson is suffering early-onset dementia symptoms in his early 40s.

A study in 2019 found that 2/3 of amateur footballers worried that heading the ball could be detrimental to their health.

Naturally, also, blows to the head in boxing can have serious lasting damage, too. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) or ‘punch drunk syndrome’ is a progressive disease that can worsen over time.

Those affected by head injuries, brain damage or dementia

So, what happens if you are affected by a head or brain injury, or health condition from playing sports and cannot make your own decisions or you require someone to help you manage your affairs?

Understanding the importance of Power of Attorney

While most of us don’t have to think about this sort of thing until we are in our older years, with increased evidence of early signs of dementia or brain damage, it is crucial that those with this increased risk make provisions, just in case.

This means that those who play sports or face higher risk of head injury can know that there are plans in place for the future, should they be required. The additional bonus is that families and loved ones are aware of who will be the appointed person or people to help with decisions if something should happen.

Peace of mind that this is covered means that everyone can carry on living their lives without worrying about having to put last-minute plans in place in the event of an emergency.

There are three variants of Power of Attorney which you may have come across to date:

Power of Attorney

  • Decisions about financial affairs, certain assets only
  • Valid while you do have the mental capacity to make your own decisions
  • If you struggle to get out to the bank or post office and want a trusted person to be able to access your account for you
  • If you need cover for a temporary period i.e. hospital stay or holiday, someone can act for you

Lasting Power of Attorney

  • Decisions about financial affairs, or health and care, two separate types.
  • Health and welfare LPA can be used when you no longer have mental capacity to make decisions about healthcare alone
  • Financial LPA is used when you no longer have mental capacity for decision making about your financial affairs, but you can bring it into action earlier if you wish, as long as it is your own decision
  • Protection for the future, knowing someone you rely on will help with decisions, keeping your best interests at heart

Enduring Power of Attorney

  • Pre-dates Lasting Power of Attorney: if you made and signed an EPA before 1 October 2007, it should remain valid
  • Can only come into play when the person has lost mental capacity
  • Only covers financial decisions, including general money and bills management, bank accounts, pensions and property or investments

The Value in Planning Ahead

As with most situations in life, by thinking ahead and making provisions for when something doesn’t go as planned, any hurdles that do arise will often be easier to overcome.

The same is true with making preparations for your welfare in the future, just in case anything does happen to you.

When it comes to discussion around head injuries in sport, there is no one size fits all approach. An individual may develop an illness later in life, or experience trauma which may injure them at any given time. In the best circumstances, provisions will be made and may never need to be used.

By making preparations in advance, you have your own say over who you wish to appoint to support you, so you can be safe in the knowledge that someone you trust is looking after your best interests.

What happens if you don’t have a registered Power of Attorney?

You cannot get Power of Attorney after someone has lost their mental capacity.

In the unfortunate event of an individual losing their mental capacity before granting Power of Attorney, the Court of Protection must then appoint someone to take control of the management of their affairs to ensure that they are treated fairly and that all decisions made are in their best interests.

Anyone over 18 can apply to become a deputy for the individual at this point, granted that nobody else objects, and that they can be trusted with the affairs and decision making.

In comparison to someone who has been appointed with Power of Attorney, the power that a Deputy will be granted is limited. There is also a fee which must be paid each year by the appointed deputy to renew this status.

Simply put, it is a lot more beneficial and a lot less stress on those close to you, to appoint Power of Attorney when you have mental capacity. You can choose someone you rely on to support your decision making and affairs. Whether you play for leisure or professionally, currently play or are retired, if you think you may be at a higher risk of head injuries from sport, please do reach out to our team.

It’s not uncommon to sort this out when you are writing or updating your Will. Doing so will mean that it is sorted in one go, and you don’t need to worry about it again unless your circumstances change.

Making a Lasting Power of Attorney

Appointing Lasting Power of Attorney when you write your will can give you extra peace of mind that, should anything happen to you in the future which affects your mental capacity, you have a trusted attorney who can assist you with decision making and management of your assets or day to day finances.

It is important to remember that your partner may not automatically be able to access your accounts and make decisions on your behalf. Without an LPA, they will not have the authority to do so. Bear in mind also that an EPA will only cover the financial aspect of decision making. If you have an EPA, you may also want to consider arranging a health & welfare attorney.

Being clear on who you trust to help you make decisions, or make decisions for you, is paramount to ensuring your best interests are looked after in the future, should anything happen.

Contact us on 0161 969 3131 or fill in our contact form to speak with a specialist who can guide you through LPAs, Wills, Trusts and more. All legal aspects of preparations for the future can be managed by our team.

We also highly recommend joining the conversation around Sport United Against Dementia, and encouraging your family and friends, or even finding the courage yourself, to seek support if needed.