Dafydd James: Early Onset Dementia Diagnosis of Former Wales Rugby Star


Former Wales rugby union international Dafydd James has revealed he has been diagnosed with early onset dementia. This revelation comes as the 47-year-old joins nearly 400 other ex-sportsmen and women taking legal action against World Rugby, the RFU (Rugby Football Union) and WRU (Welsh Rugby Union) for allegedly neglecting to protect those playing the sport from permanent injury caused by repetitive concussive and sub-concussive blows.

James, who won 48 Wales caps and went on a British and Irish Lions tour to Australia in 2001, is amongst the 380 motor athletes that have now been included in the lawsuit. Among these additions are 100 rugby league players, 40 rugby union players and 15 footballers. Also among them are Ryan Jones, former Wales captain, England World Cup winner Steve Thompson, and ex-New Zealand prop Carl Hayman. Most recently, Dafydd James was joined by Colin Gibson, former Manchester United defender and Nick Fozzard, ex-St Helens and Leeds Rhinos forward, who both decided to speak publicly about their situation.

In agreement with the legal firm, Rylands Garth, who are handling proceedings on the claimants’ behalf, it is said that many of the players now suffer from a range of neurological impairments, including early onset dementia, CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), post-concussion syndrome, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and motor neurone disease. In an interview with the BBC, James declared that he likely has CTE, and stated that, “In a way it probably highlights that I’ve got a little bit of an answer about why I feel the way I do”.

Dafydd James is just one of many ex-players to battle debilitating mental and neurological disorders. He hopes that by “telling people” his story, he can help others understand the same effects and stresses he and other players are facing. His message to the community is “Knowledge is key” when it comes to understanding these types of issues. He’s far from wanting to see the demise of the game, as it has “given me so much pleasure”.

World Rugby, the RFU and WRU issued a joint statement in response, expressing deep sadness for Dafydd and the other former players who are struggling with health issues, and highlighting rugby’s commitment to being a “leader in the prevention, management and identification of head impacts”. World Rugby has vowed to remain invested in research, to explore new technology, and to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all those playing and watching the game.

Dafydd James is a former professional rugby player who won 48 caps for Wales and went on a British and Irish Lions tour to Australia in 2001. With his career on the biggest stage in the sport, he has now revealed that he has been diagnosed with early onset dementia and is joining an estimated 380 other ex-sportsmen and women in taking legal action against World Rugby, the RFU and WRU. He is also likely suffering from CTE and has used his story to help bring attention to neurological injuries suffered by an array of athletes.

The Rugby Football Union, Welsh Rugby Union and World Rugby are extremely concerned about the wellbeing of their past players and have issued a joint statement expressing their sadness for those struggling with health issues. As a leader in athlete welfare, they continually strive to safeguard and support all their players and promote the sport in a safe and accessible manner. Their commitment to further researching the issue and investing in new technology reflects their commitment to the health of their players.