Last year, headlines were made when some 4500 former NFL players, many of whom had suffered with mental health or cognitive problems, sued the league over head injuries sustained whilst playing. My instinct when news of this lawsuit broke was to be sceptical: surely the risk of injury whilst playing a sport such as American football is something that, as a professional, you accept and take responsibility for when signing up to play in the NFL. Playing sport, at any level, involves some level of risk when it comes to your body – go for a run and risk shin splints, play netball and risk a broken finger, play football and risk a twisted ankle. At any rate, risk is an inherent part of anything we do, and surely it had not come as a surprise to former NFL players that the risk of head injury came with the territory when playing top-level American football?
In 1996 Britain won just one medal at the Olympic Games. In the aftermath everyone wanted to know just where it had all gone wrong. The public was embarrassed, the media raucous. Something, apparently, had to change.