The 41-year-old former All Blacks main player Karl Heymann revealed that he suffered from early dementia on Wednesday, joining legal proceedings initiated by several former players against various rugby authorities.
Heymann, a 45-time New Zealander who is also a former Toulon (France) player, explained that he was consulted after experiencing memory loss, disorientation and suicidal thoughts.
“I’ve spent several years thinking I’m going crazy, and at one point I really did,” the former player told New Zealand’s The Bounce website.
“It was a constant headache, all these things that happened that I just couldn’t understand,” he explained.
Tests showed he had early dementia and a possible chronic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease.
This diagnosis prompted him to join the action brought by about 150 players, mainly in England, against the rugby authorities.
Last December, this group of former professionals, including England’s Steve Thompson and Welshman Alex Popham, announced their intention to seek compensation from the World Rugby Union, the FA and the Welshman after being diagnosed with neurological disorders.
“These would-be young adults need to know where to turn, and more support and better supervision around head injuries and workloads are needed,” Heymann said.
“The problem of the association between concussions and long-term cognitive problems is very complex, and the science is developing,” said Mark Robinson, president of the New Zealand Rugby Union. “New Zealand Rugby will continue to put players’ welfare first and make the sport safe for all.”
For its part, World Rugby, the world rugby body, indicated that it had not been contacted by Hayman, and did not comment on her statements, stressing that for her, “the well-being of the players is a priority for the sport.”
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