Ryan Jones: Former Wales rugby captain reveals early-onset dementia diagnosis at age of 41

“Rugby is walking headlong with its eyes closed into a catastrophic situation,” says Ryan Jones after revealing he has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia at the age of 41; he calls for the sport to take more preventative measures now

Last Updated: 16/07/22 11:21pm


Ryan Jones is confronting a difficult future. (Photo: David Davies/PA Wire)

Ryan Jones, the former captain of the Wales rugby team, has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia at the age of 41.

Jones has 75 international caps and was a member of the British and Irish Lions squad that toured New Zealand in 2005.

He received a diagnosis of probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) last December.

"I lived 15 years of my life like a superhero and I'm not." Ryan Jones' fears are stark. (Photo: Tim Ireland/PA Archive/PA Images)

“I lived 15 years of my life like a superhero and I’m not.” Ryan Jones’ fears are stark. (Photo: Tim Ireland/PA Archive/PA Images)

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Jones said, “I feel like my world is falling apart.

“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.”

Jones had retired from playing rugby in 2015 and resigned from his post as performance director at the Welsh Rugby Union in October of 2020.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Ryan Jones received an MBE for services to rugby union and charitable fundraising from the Princess Royal at Windsor Castle earlier this year. (Photo:  Aaron Chown/PA Wire/PA Images)

Ryan Jones received an MBE for services to rugby union and charitable fundraising from the Princess Royal at Windsor Castle earlier this year. (Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Wire/PA Images)

Jones revealed that after experiencing depression he began to have short-term memory problems and was becoming forgetful.

“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,” Jones said.

“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,” he added.

“I don’t know how to slow that down, make it stop, what to do.”

Last month, the Alzheimer’s Society established partnerships with organisations such as the Rugby Players’ Association to provide a permanent way of referring any past and present player or manager who has been diagnosed with dementia or is caring for a loved one.

Jones was awarded an MBE in the 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to rugby union and charitable fundraising. While he maintained he wouldn’t change the experience of “living the dream” of playing for Wales, he believes the sport must do more to take preventative measures.

“It is walking headlong with its eyes closed into a catastrophic situation,” he said.



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