Rugby World Cup winner Thompson to donate brain for research

Rugby World Cup winner Steve Thompson, who was diagnosed with dementia aged 42, has pledged to donate his brain for research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the former England hooker said on Thursday.

Thompson is one of a group of nine former players who filed a class-action lawsuit against World Rugby and other governing bodies in December, alleging their failure protect them led to early onset of dementia.

The Concussion Legacy Project, a new “brain bank” formed in partnership with the Jeff Astle Foundation — named after the former England forward who died of dementia in 2002 — will use Thompson’s brain to research CTE and other consequences of brain trauma in athletes and military veterans in Britain.

“I’m pledging my brain so the children of the people I love don’t have to go through what I have gone through,” Thompson, who revealed last year he had no memory of winning the 2003 World Cup final, said.

“It’s up to my generation to pledge our brains so researchers can develop better treatments and ways to make the game safer.”

Earlier on Thursday, World Rugby announced new guidelines limiting full contact training to 15 minutes per week, following their six-point welfare plan in July which included brain health care for former players.

Thompson played 73 times for England from 2002-2011 and won three caps for the British & Irish Lions.

The Concussion Legacy Project will be led by Gabriele DeLuca, the associate professor in the Nuffield Department of clinical neurosciences at the University of Oxford.