BBC Factual has ordered Head On: Rugby, Dementia and Me with Rugby World Cup winner Steve Thompson, who lives with early-onset dementia at the age of 44.
The former England hooker was diagnosed with probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in late 2020, a degenerative brain condition linked to repetitive trauma to the head. In this documentary filmed over the course of a year, Steve meets brain experts to better understand his progressive and expansive memory loss.
He cannot remember being awarded an MBE by the Queen after being named one of the best players in the world following England’s victory over Australia in the Rugby World Cup in 2003.
The father of four also speaks to former players, and questions the rugby authorities’ procedures in place today to prevent head injuries during contact in training and matches.
Steve Thompson says: “I won the Rugby World Cup for my country and loved everything about the game but years of impact have damaged my brain. As I struggle to come to terms with what the future holds and what the sport I love has done to me and my young family, I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to those still in the game.”
Jack Bootle, Senior Head of Commissioning, Science and Natural History says: “Steve’s life has been turned upside down by his condition. This is a frank, eye-opening film that isn’t afraid to ask difficult questions of a sport so many people love. Could the rugby authorities be doing more to safeguard the health of players?”
Steve Thompson is part of group of 182 rugby players diagnosed with early-onset dementia and brain injuries, who are bringing a legal case against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union. The ex-players argue that the sport’s governing bodies failed to take reasonable action to protect players from permanent injury caused by repetitive concussive and sub-concussive blows.
Head On: Rugby, Dementia and Me, a 1×60’ for BBC Two and iPlayer and is produced by RAW, part of All3Media. It was commissioned by Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning for Science and Natural History at the BBC. The Commissioning Editor is Anna Dickeson. The Executive Producer for RAW is Tom Barry and Director is Mark Casebow.
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