Former Wales star reveals dementia fight as legal case grows
NEWS: Former Wales international Dafydd James has revealed he has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia as a legal case of former sportsmen and women claiming they suffered brain injuries during their careers has grown to 380.
James, who won 48 Wales caps and toured Australia with the 2001 British and Irish Lions, is among a group of former players to join a lawsuit against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Welsh Rugby Union (WRU).
The latest additions to the group of sports people seeking damages include 100 Rugby League players, 40 from Rugby Union and 15 footballers according to legal firm Rylands Garth, which has issued proceedings.
The claimants allege that governing bodies of the sports were negligent in failing to take reasonable action to protect players from permanent injury caused by repetitive concussive and sub-concussive blows.
James, 47, said he was first aware of an issue when he began forgetting his children’s names.
“I suffer with my mental health,” James told the BBC.
“In a way it’s quite cathartic to tell people because for me I am trying to help other people who are suffering and there are plenty of people out there who are suffering.
“If my message can help anybody else that’s all I care about at the moment is to help other people understand.”
Former Manchester United and Aston Villa footballer Colin Gibson and former Rugby League star Nick Fozzard have also publicly revealed their struggles with early-onset dementia.
England World Cup winner Steve Thompson, former Wales captain Ryan Jones and former New Zealand prop Carl Hayman are among other Rugby Union players to have previously outlined their struggles.
“Claimants contend that the defendants were negligent in failing to take reasonable action in order to protect players from permanent injury caused by repetitive concussive and sub-concussive blows,” Rylands Garth said.
“Many players now suffer from various irreversible neurological impairments, including early onset dementia, CTE [chronic traumatic encephalopathy], post-concussion syndrome, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and motor neurone disease.”
World Rugby, the RFU and WRU said, in a joint statement: “We care deeply about every member of the rugby family and have been saddened by the brave personal accounts of Dafydd and other former players who are struggling with health issues.
“Whilst legal claims prevent us from speaking to Dafydd directly, we would want him and his family to know that we care, we listen, and we never stand still when it comes to further cementing rugby as the most progressive sport on athlete welfare.
“Acting on the latest science, evidence and independent expert guidance, we constantly strive to safeguard and support all our players – future, current, and former.”
The RFU announced in January it had approved a reduction in tackle height across community rugby in England – to waist height or below – in an effort to reduce head impacts and concussion risk.