Former Wales rugby captain and sports icon, Ryan Jones has revealed he is suffering with early onset dementia and believes the sport of rugby is ‘walking headlong with its eyes closed into a catastrophic situation’
In an emotional interview with The Sunday Times, Jones, aged just 41, opened up on his diagnosis with both dementia and probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
He follows in the footsteps of England’s 2003 World Cup-winning hooker Steve Thompson, another former Wales international in Alix Popham, and others in dealing with dementia.
Reports suggest that a high number of ex-rugby players who have been diagnosed with early onset dementia and probable CTE could be up to 200 as scientists suggest a link between sports that involve head impact and heavy contacts like boxing, rugby and even football to dementia and parkinson’s disease.
‘I feel like my world is falling apart,’ said Jones, who won 75 Welsh caps and captained his country on 33 occasions said.
Jones continued: ‘I am really scared. 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. I just want to lead a happy, healthy, normal life.
‘I feel that’s been taken away and there is nothing I can do.’
Jones won three Six Nations Grand Slams with Wales in 2005, 2008 and 2012 as well as a Championship title in 2013. He captained the side to those 2008 and 2012 successes.
In 2020, Jones was employed by the Welsh Rugby Union and had worked for the governing body as director of community rugby and then performance director.
He was told of his diagnosis last December.
Jones added: ‘I’ve got three children and three step-children and I want to be a fantastic dad.
‘I can’t train harder, I can’t play the referee. I don’t know what the rules of the game are anymore.
‘We don’t know where to go, where to find support. We haven’t got any friends in this space.
‘It terrifies me. That’s the fear. That’s the bit that never leaves.
‘That’s the bit I can’t shake off.’