Former rugby player Steve Thompson feels scared about his mind

Steve Thompson recalls signs of his early-onset dementia

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Ex-rugby player Steve Thompson’s life has been turned upside down by a diagnosis of early onset dementia. Steve Thompson and his family attempt to come to terms with his life-altering condition in a BBC Two documentary. Broadcast on Wednesday, October 5 at 9pm on BBC Two, Head On: Rugby, Dementia and Me explored the impact of the degenerative brain disease.

Only 42, Thompson confessed that years of playing the sport he so passionately loves has “damaged” his brain.

If people were to ask if his rugby career was worth it, he would respond: “No… I’d rather not be such a burden on the family.”

“The game that gave me so much is starting to take everything from me,” he said in the documentary.

When he went for a detailed brain scan, the results shocked him, as he was diagnosed with young onset dementia.


His condition was “most likely caused by a brain condition called CTE”, which can only be officially confirmed once somebody dies.

The “degenerative disease is linked to multiple head impacts known as sub-concussions”.

Thompson added: “The obvious cause of this is the massive number of knocks I’ve taken in rugby.”

Speaking to a professional, Thompson is told that the brain is soft whereas the skull is a hard, bony case.

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When there is a big impact, the brain will have a “rebound” effect and bounce off the skull, which can lead to a concussion.

It is the accumulation of injuries that can “kick off” the degenerative disease.

At the moment, specialists are unaware how to stop the progression of young onset dementia.

In an extremely candid moment, Thompson revealed that sometimes he can’t remember the name of his eight-year-old daughter.

Sharing four children with his wife, the family unit have to come to terms with Thompson’s heartbreaking condition.

In tears, his wife Steph shared how “sad” it is to see her husband “fading”.

“We have young kids… it’s sad thinking that you might not know them as teenagers,” she added.

Thompson voiced: “I’m determined to stop this from happening to anyone else.”

The athlete has pledged that his brain will go to the Concussion Legacy Foundation when he dies.

As Thompson’s condition progresses, he admits he feels confused more often, not knowing if his mind is playing tricks on him.

In addition to mood swings and memory loss, Thompson feels “scared” and that the “light has gone out” for him a bit.

“I don’t want others to go through this because it’s sh*t,” Thompson said.

For more information on young onset dementia, visit Dementia UK.

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