Former Wales rugby international Dafydd James has revealed he has been diagnosed with early onset dementia, following an investigation into brain injuries within the sport. The news follows legal action from 380 former sportsmen and women who are claiming they suffered brain injuries during their careers. These claims take the form of a lawsuit against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union, and the Welsh Rugby Union.
James, who won 48 Wales caps and toured Australia with the British and Irish Lions in 2001, joins 100 Rugby League players, 40 Rugby Union players, and 15 Footballers, who are now taking legal action. According to the legal firm Rylands-Garth, the players contend that World Rugby, the RFU, and the WRU were negligent in failing to take reasonable action to protect players from permanent brain injuries. Those injuries include early onset dementia, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), post-concussion syndrome, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and motor neurone disease, among others.
On discussing his diagnosis, James said: “In a way it probably highlights that I’ve got a little bit of an answer about why I feel the way I do.” He also added “I suffer with my mental health, and in a way it’s quite cathartic to tell people because I am trying to help other people who are suffering, and there are plenty of people out there who are suffering.” His words echo a sentiment felt by many of the other players who, as well as medical treatment, may also require emotional support during this time.
As part of the legal action taken by the 380 players, World Rugby, the RFU, and the WRU jointly released a statement regarding the health of the ‘rugby family’. It reads: “Whilst legal claims prevent us from speaking to Dafydd directly, we would want him and his family to know that we care, we listen, and we never stand still when it comes to further cementing rugby as the most progressive sport on athlete welfare.”
As World Rugby, the RFU, and WRU also strive to implement the latest science, expert guidance, and evidence to protect and support players, we wish James, and all involved in the lawsuit, the best during this difficult time.