Former Wales international Dafydd James reveals dementia diagnosis

James has 48 caps for Wales Credit: PA

Former Wales rugby international Dafydd James has revealed he has been diagnosed with early onset dementia.

He joins a group of ex-sportsmen and women taking legal action claiming they suffered brain injuries during their careers which has now grown to 380, with James being the latest to reveal his condition.

James, who won 48 Wales caps and toured Australia with the 2001 British and Irish Lions, is among a group of former players to join a lawsuit against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and Welsh Rugby Union.

According to legal firm Rylands Garth, which has issued proceedings, a total of 380 sportsmen and women are now part of the group, with the latest additions featuring 100 rugby league players, 40 rugby union and 15 footballers.

James said his diagnosis has given him a "little bit of an answer" about why he has suffered with his mental health Credit: PA

James, former Manchester United defender Colin Gibson and ex-St Helens and Leeds Rhinos forward Nick Fozzard have decided to speak publicly.

More than 35 former players across both rugby codes had previously outlined their struggles.

That list includes the likes of former Wales captain Ryan Jones, England World Cup winner Steve Thompson and ex-New Zealand prop Carl Hayman.

James, 47, told the BBC that he had also been diagnosed with likely CTE - chronic traumatic encephalopathy. In an interview he said he would not want to see the "demise" of a game which has given him "so much pleasure".

“In a way it probably highlights that I’ve got a little bit of an answer about why I feel the way I do,” said James, who has had mental health issues.

“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.

“To the guys who are suffering, I think knowledge is key to understanding. I just think that knowledge is key and I think it’s important that people practice with care.

“Long may the game survive and thrive. I’m certainly not one of these people that wants to see the demise of the game. It’s given me so much pleasure.”

Ryalnds Garth said in a statement, "“Claimants contend that the defendants were negligent in failing to take reasonable action in order to protect players from permanent injury caused by repetitive concussive and sub-concussive blows."

“Many players now suffer from various irreversible neurological impairments, including early onset dementia, CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), post-concussion syndrome, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and motor neurone disease.”

The WRU said legal action means they are unable to speak to Dafydd directly but they "care" and they "listen" Credit: PA

World Rugby, the RFU and WRU said, in a joint statement: “We care deeply about every member of the rugby family and have been saddened by the brave personal accounts of Dafydd and other former players who are struggling with health issues."

“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.

“Acting on the latest science, evidence and independent expert guidance, we constantly strive to safeguard and support all our players – future, current, and former.

“Rugby is a leader in the prevention, management and identification of head impacts, and World Rugby also proactively funds transformational research, embraces innovation and explores technology that can make the sport as accessible, inclusive and safe as possible for all participants.”

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Mental Health, James Evans MS called on more support for players and their families.

“If there is one key issue to take away from this story, it’s that more needed to be done for him, and sooner.

“There needs to be wrap around support for players and their families that extends beyond their time on the pitch.

“I’m glad that Dafydd James has felt able to share his story, as it will no doubt help some people who were otherwise apprehensive to seek professional assistance.”