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Alexandra Veuthey is a returning resident at Graduate House, and she is currently undertaking her doctoral research studies. Alexandra has a number of published works which appear in publications including Causa Sport, Melbourne Journal of International Law, International Sports Law Journal, and Sweet and Maxwell’s International Sports Law Review. We recently spoke to Alexandra about her research.

Alexandra’s starting point is the scandal in American football, in the National Football League (NFL), which saw a wave of suicides among football players. In time, researchers discovered a possible link between these instances of suicides and multiple concussions, which are believed to result in a degenerative disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

CTE is at least, an impairment of the brain. Those who have been concussed might suffer from symptoms such as memory loss, disorientation, impairedjudgement and impulse anger-control problems. More severe cases can ultimately amount to dementia. Many have also suffered from depression and the most extreme cases have culminated in suicide.

“Most of the recent suicide cases are found with wounds to the chest, as players’ intention is to leave their brains available for scientific research,” said Alexandra.

Alexandra’s work examines how to better regulate concussion in sport. Apart from American football, she also examines other sports such as ice-hockey, Australian Rules Football, football and rugby. She uses national case studies, and tries to find the most relevant sports and countries to make comparisons. Alexandra has started her analysis with North America, and then will examine the global situation on other continents, with a particular focus on Oceania and Europe.

There are also numerous medical protocols in place. One of the rare consensuses is that if players get concussed, they should not go back to the field in the same match.

State laws remain quite minimal, and Alexandra noted that her argument will be that states have to be more proactive to better regulate such a matter.

To do this, Alexandra will have to measure medical issues.

“It [medical issues] is the starting point of the problem as multiple concussions might lead to CTE and brain disease. And it might also be part of the solution because science will evolve. Researchers might find new MRI methods, new ways to diagnose concussion and CTE. At the moment, MRI are not very helpful, and we can only diagnose CTE with forensic examination’’.

Alexandra’s research is unique. No one has taken such a comprehensive approach to the issue of regulating concussion in sport until now. Other examinations have included the situation within one country or within one sport, but not with a comparative law approach.

“I think that my conclusions for the first part will be that the scandal is far from being restricted to the United States and American football. It is spreading out to other countries and sports. Conversely, the solutions remain mainly domestic,” Alexandra explained.

Alexandra will then try to come up with harmonised solutions that will compose the second part of her thesis.

Alexandra’s doctoral work is also gaining international recognition. She has recently been invited to present at a conference in New Zealand on legal and medical issues surrounding concussion in sport.

“People were quite interested on this topic in New Zealand because recently two rugby players died after sustaining concussions. So it’s quite controversial’’.

Her message was pertinent: There needs to be an end to macho culture in sport: people must become aware that [injuries] are a serious issue, and players shouldn’t feel guilty if they miss a match – it’s for the good of their health.

“The first thing is to make players and sports managers aware that this is a real issue. Going back to the field too early can lead to serious health problems after retirement. Additionally, I would like to make states get involved, because you can’t only wait for sport federations to find solutions,” enthused Alexandra.

“I will try to come up with suggestions of improvements. It would be great to have an influence on what happens on the fields.”

Thanks Alexandra for sharing your research with us!

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