Rugby: Sports head injuries need more serious attention, says expert

A leading concussion expert warns more rugby players could end up suffering from dementia, if head injuries aren't treated early enough or taken seriously enough.

On Wednesday, former England hooker Steve Thompson revealed he couldn't even remember their victorious 2003 World Cup campaign, due to head trauma suffered during his career.

"I'm watching a game of England playing and I can see that I'm there, but I can't remember any of it," Thompson says. "I can't remember being there whatsoever.

"I can't remember being in Australia."

Thompson has suffered so many head injuries and concussions, he now has early-onset dementia.

Leading neuropsychologist James Cunningham has spent more than two decades treating athletes who suffer from head injuries and says referrals are increasing.

"I've just see more and more concussions all the time, and we need to be well educated, do more research and get on the front foot," Cunningham says.

As long as players aren't being rushed back to play, he believes head injuries are manageable, but the long-term effects remain severe.

"It can get bad to the point where there's a possibility of an early-dementia process and long term difficulties for the rest of their lives," he says.

Several former players are launching a lawsuit for negligence against World Rugby over the effects of concussion.

The faster pace of the modern game has also meant an uptick in the head-related injuries, says Cunningham.

"The game has sped up - the physiology, the force - and that concerns me, because the brain has not changed." 

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