JAMES HASKELL has given a stark warning about the dangers rugby players face of suffering from early on-set dementia.
The ex-England and Wasps star has revealed a former club-mate was diagnosed with dementia and is calling for RFU chiefs to introduce measures to protect players.
And in a recent podcast with Haskell, former Red Rose captain Dylan Hartley, 34, admitted he has started suffering with memory loss and a “little bit of dizziness”.
Haskell, 35, told The Sun: “I think concussions in rugby is a major issue.
“I had a brain scan when I was younger as I used to get a lot of migraines but I haven’t had one since.
“I didn’t have too many concussions as a player but I know team-mates who are suffering with short-term memory loss.
“A former team-mate who played internationally — I can’t name him — has got early on-set dementia. I think there are lots of people like this.
“Something is going to come out quite soon — there’s going to be some big news around this subject.
“In the NFL, it’s called CTE — chronic traumatic encephalopathy — a rare brain disease.
“Dylan was saying sometimes he forgets things, he feels a little slower. I don’t have that but I would be interested to get a scan on my brain and see what sort of state it is in.”
BRAIN CHANGES HIT MOODS & BEHAVIOUR
By Lizzie Parry
ALZHEIMER’S disease is the most common cause of dementia — and affects more than 520,000 Brits.
Dementia is a set of symptoms that include memory loss, difficulty thinking and problem solving, plus struggling with language.
A person with dementia often experiences changes to their mood and behaviour. It is triggered by diseases that damage the brain, including Alzheimer’s as well as strokes.
Alzheimer’s is a physical disease that damages cells, resulting in dementia. It is thought to be triggered by a build-up of proteins which can form abnormal structures, known as ‘plaques’, in the brain.
It’s a progressive disease, which means that gradually over time, more parts of the brain are damaged. As this happens, symptoms emerge and get worse.
The flanker’s comments come a year after the largest study into ex-rugby stars and footballers with dementia.
It found players are six times more likely to have a degenerative CTE brain disease which is linked to repetitive brain trauma.
Scientists at Glasgow University found in the majority of cases players had CTE as well as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
CTE can cause memory loss, confusion and eventually full-blown dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.
As far back as 1928 the term ‘punch drunk’ was used to describe progressive dementia in boxers. Later it was called dementia pugilistica and today it’s known as CTE.
Haskell added: “All contact sports come with a price and you have to be aware of that.
“Rugby in particular could do more to look after its players in terms of less contact training, more sport science and more rest.
“And there needs to be a better insurance scheme in place after retirement as I am paying thousands now for scans and treatment.”
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Earlier this month Haskell’s The Good, The Bad and The Rugby Podcast saw retired hooker Hartley speak about his memory issues.
He said: “There’s not enough to make me seek help but, yeah, there’s things happening there. I muddle my words. A little bit of memory stuff. Dizziness every now and then.
“If you say you’ve got a sore finger and you Google it, you’ve got leprosy, so I try not to think about it and lead a fairly healthy lifestyle.”
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