Rugby concussions: ‘I’ve got no recollection of 80-90% of my playing career’

In the News: Former Wales international Alix Popham on changes needed to protect players

Former Welsh rugby international Alix Popham, who has been diagnosed with early onset dementia, shares his story on In the News podcast. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Former Welsh rugby international Alix Popham, who has been diagnosed with early onset dementia, shares his story on In the News podcast. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

 

Last week, news broke that former All Blacks rugby international Carl Hayman had been diagnosed with early onset dementia and probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) at the age of 41. Hayman is just the latest in a growing list of former rugby players who have suffered brain injuries as a result of blows to the head while playing the sport.

Many of these are now taking legal action against the main governing rugby bodies for their failure to protect players from concussion and head injuries.

The lawyer leading these actions has warned that rugby is facing a dementia “epidemic” among retired professionals unless the game is seriously reformed.

So how much does this epidemic of brain injuries threaten the future of the game of rugby and what are the likes of World Rugby and the Rugby Football Union doing about it?

Former Welsh rugby international Alix Popham, who has also been diagnosed with early onset dementia and probable CTE (a brain injury caused by repeated blows to the head), is one of the players taking part in this landmark legal action.

On today’s In the News podcast, Popham reveals he cannot remember “80-90 per cent” of his rugby career.

“I was worried that I was losing my memory but my neuropsychologist, who I see every couple of weeks, described it that my brain was so inflamed because of the contact I was doing during training and playing, it never had time to recover,” Popham told presenter Sorcha Pollak. “So I was taking movies of the games and should be storing the memories but because of the inflammation in my brain I didn’t have a film and it wasn’t recording.”

Also on today’s podcast, Irish Times sports writer Johnny Watterson reflects on the changes being made in rugby to mitigate the risk of head injures and what all this means for the future of the sport.

In the News is presented by reporters Sorcha Pollak and Conor Pope.

You can listen to the podcast here:

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