Campaigners say culture of game needs to change so all – players, referees, writers, viewers – are more aware of the risks
The bleak, unlovely month of February has two things to recommend it, and one of those is that it’s all over quickly. The other is that it brings the Six Nations with it. Since the championship starts in winter and ends in spring, it always feels like the harbinger of better things, and in the meantime there’s the welcome prospect of long weekend afternoons spent watching games at the pub or at home in front of the TV, or, if you’re lucky, a trip out to one of the grounds, maybe even a weekend away in Paris or Rome. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to be. This year the championship already feels diminished, fraught and perilous, just like everything else.
It’s not just the lack of fans, the empty grounds, the shuttered pubs, bars and restaurants. These will be the first Test matches since Steve Thompson, Alix Popham, Michael Lipman, and two other former professionals revealed that they have been diagnosed with either early onset dementia and probable CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), or other post-concussion symptoms.