World Cup winner Steve Thompson has revealed he was placed on suicide watch as his struggle with dementia took him to the brink of despair.
The 43-year-old former England hooker, part of the team which lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in Australia in 2003, revealed he cannot remember large parts of his career and at times forgets the names of his wife Steph and their children.
He was diagnosed with early-onset dementia and suspected chronic traumatic encephalopathy in November 2020.
Thompson told the Daily Mail: “I was put on suicide watch a little while back. A few weeks ago, I was at the station in a state.
“My doctor suggests some things to help keep my head on home, like I’ll spray some of Steph’s perfume on me or look at pictures of the kids.
“This day I just thought, ‘f*** it’. There’s a fast train that goes through without stopping. It actually passed through before I got there. I sat on the next one and just bawled my eyes out.
“I sometimes find myself thinking the least selfish thing to do is just to kill myself. That’s what this can do to me.”
Thompson retired in 2011 because of a neck injury – he had previously done so in 2007 as a result of a different neck problem, but returned to extend a club career which included spells with Northampton, Brive, Leeds and Wasps.
During his playing days, he was repeatedly concussed and is part of a group of former players bringing a legal action against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union.
He said: “I just want things to change. Rugby needs to understand the problem and stop lying about it. There is a crisis. I’m f*****. But this is for the sake of the next guy.”
He added: “I never really knew what a concussion was — I thought it was being out cold. No. It can be any hit on the head. That happened almost every day in my career — I passed out so many times on the scrum machine. I did 100 scrums in a day once. The boys would say, ‘He is having a nap’ and carry on.”