‘My world is falling apart’: Former Lion Ryan Jones reveals dementia diagnosis at age 41 | Wales rugby team

Former Wales captain Ryan Jones has revealed his fears for the future after he was diagnosed with early-onset dementia at the age of 41.

Jones, a 75-time cap and a member of the British and Irish Lions squad on the New Zealand tour in 2005, was diagnosed with suspected chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) last December.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Jones said: “I feel like my world is collapsing. I’m really scared because I have three kids and three stepchildren and I want to be a great dad.

“I’ve lived 15 years of my life as a superhero and I’m not. I don’t know what the future will bring. I am a product of an environment that revolves around process and human performance. I can’t perform like I could, and I just want to live a happy, healthy and normal life. I feel like that has 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 are anymore.”

After being diagnosed with depression, Jones, who retired in 2015, said he started having short-term memory problems and becoming forgetful. “It scares me because I don’t know if we’ll be here in two years and these episodes will be a week, two weeks or permanent,” added Jones, who resigned as performance director at the Welsh Rugby Union in October 2020.

“That’s the fear, that’s the part that never goes away. That’s the little bit I can’t shake. Every episode I have also leaves a bit of a legacy. Everything we cancel, every relationship I ruin or don’t have time for, just makes it a little harder to deal with. I don’t know how to slow it down, make it stop, what to do.”

Last month, the Alzheimer’s Society partnered with organizations such as the Rugby Players’ Association to provide a permanent way to refer past and present players or managers who have been diagnosed with dementia or are caring for a loved one.

Jones – awarded an MBE on the 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honors list for services to rugby unions and charity fundraising – believes the sport needs to do more to help take preventive action.

“It [rugby union] runs headlong with his eyes closed in a catastrophic situation,” Jones said.

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