A professional rugby player who claims he suffered brain injuries due to the negligence of his employer will be allowed access to documents relating to how other athletes on the team were treated.
The judge's decision will enable the plaintiff to see all records of head injuries that two other players may have sustained during their time at the Newcastle Knights club.
Justice Ian Harrison also approved the subpoenas of game day diaries, match reports and other written and digital communications of trainers, medical practitioners and managers for the Newcastle Knights.
The ruling marks a significant step in what could prove to be a landmark case in public liability law.
The long-term effects of head injuries in sports first became an issue in the US, where researchers discovered American footballers were developing degenerative brain diseases at an early age.
Ninety-nine per cent of deceased NFL players who donated their brains to science showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), according to a study published in the JAMA medical journal.
CTE is linked to a number of memory and behavioural problems, including confusion, disorientation, depression, aggression and suicide.
A study published by Alzheimer's Australia also found that people who have a history of head injuries show a 58 per cent increased risk of developing Alzheimer's.
As a growing body of research is released on the topic, sports teams could find themselves sued for negligence if they fail to take adequate measures to prevent players from the impact of head injuries.
The plaintiff in this particular case claimed Newcastle Knights breached their their duty of care in several ways, including:
The plaintiff is expected to support his case by showing a pattern of negligence across other players who sustained similar injuries to himself. If successful, he could receive substantial compensation for lost income, future care costs and pain and suffering.
The case could also open up the floodgates for similar claims in the future, both from former players of the Newcastle Knights and athletes from other teams and different high-impact sports.
Have you suffered a serious injury while playing a professional sport in NSW? Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers to see whether or not you could be eligible for public liability compensation.