‘My world is falling apart’ – former Wales captain Ryan Jones diagnosed with dementia
Former Wales rugby captain Ryan Jones has been diagnosed with dementia at the age of 41.
The Grand Slam-winning forward who won 75 caps for Wales and also played for the British & Irish Lions, revealed his diagnosis of early-onset dementia in a moving interview with The Times.
“I feel like my world is falling apart,” he told the newspaper. “And I am really scared. Because I’ve got three children and three step-children and I want to be a fantastic dad.
“I lived 15 years of my life like a superhero and I’m not. I don’t know what the future holds.
“I am a product of an environment that is all about process and human performance. I’m not able to perform like I could. And I just want to lead a happy, healthy, normal life. I feel that’s been taken away and there’s nothing I can do. I can’t train harder, I can’t play the referee, I don’t know what the rules of the game are anymore.”
Jones was given the devastating news that he had probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in December, being told he was one of one of the worst cases specialists had seen.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive brain condition that’s thought to be caused by repeated blows to the head and repeated episodes of concussion. It’s particularly associated with contact sports.
“Whether it was partner or family, they were noticing changes in me,” he said. “I was diagnosed with depression and I started to realise that some of my cognitive function wasn’t great. I began to see that my short-term memory wasn’t great. I was forgetting things,” he said.
“It terrifies me because I don’t know if, in two years’ time, we’re sat here and these episodes are a week long, two weeks long or permanent. That’s the fear, that’s the bit that never leaves. That’s the bit I can’t shake off.
“Every episode I have also leaves a bit of a legacy. Everything we cancel, every relationship that I poison or don’t have time for anymore, just makes it a little bit tougher to cope. I don’t know how to slow that down, make it stop, what to do.”
The former Wales performance director added: “I was a kid who had a dream of playing for Wales. I got to live that dream. I captained Wales more times than anyone else until Warby (Sam Warburton) came along and I wouldn’t change. Actually I would change it based on my experience now. But in the moment it was amazing.”
As for the game and the controversy regarding its response to brain injury, Jones warned: “It is walking headlong with its eyes closed into a catastrophic situation.”
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