Steve Thompson has revealed he cannot ‘remember being in Australia’ nor winning the World Cup with England in 2003 as he comes to terms with a diagnosis of early onset dementia.
The former England, Northampton Saints and Wasps hooker follows former teammate Michael Lipman in receiving a dementia diagnosis in recent months, Thompson at the age of 42 and Lipman at 40.
As rugby comes to the stark reality of chronic brain conditions, Thompson told The Guardian how he began to notice a change in his day-to-day living and watching the sport he played professionally for 12 years.
“And it was as if I was watching England play now. Except I was there. But I can’t remember at all being there. Honestly, I don’t know scores from any of the games,” Thompson said.
“If you put them in now, not a chance. Not a chance,” he said of watching the lineout and being unable to decipher the callout.
“I can’t remember it. I’ve got no memorabilia. I’ve got no feelings about it. You see us lifting the World Cup and I can see me there jumping around. But I can’t remember it.” The money is gone, too. “No one could ever say that I’m money-orientated, because that’s the one thing I’m not. I just wanted a simple life. I would have liked to be able to work outside and use my body and my mind. That’s not going to happen now.”
The revelation from Thompson, who played 67 times for England, comes as around 70 ex-players from across the globe launch a lawsuit against a number of rugby governing bodies, including World Rugby, the RFU and WRU.
The lawsuit is claiming damages for those who have been effected by concussions, according to the Telegraph.
It has the potential to be as critical to the sport’s operations for concussion prevention as the NFL’s huge compensation payout in 2014 to former players, when the NFL agreed to a $765m settlement with more than 4,500 ex-pros living with conditions linked to repeated head trauma.
Thompson, who admits to forgetting his wife’s name occasionally, said of his experience as a player: “The amount of head bangs I had in training. I was known for it. ‘Oh, he’s having a little sleep, he’ll get up in a minute.
“I don’t want to kill the game. I want it regulated.
“Every year you drive your car you get an MOT. The body’s exactly the same thing. If it’s not working, you shouldn’t be doing your job. It sounds awful, because lads are going to have to retire at 22 or 23. But trust me, it’s better finishing then than to be where I am now.”