Former England captain Dylan Hartley has weighed in on the discussion surrounding head injuries in rugby, saying he was unaware that he could develop dementia from repeated concussions.
Legal action is being prepared against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union by former players who have developed early-onset dementia, potentially as a result of injuries sustained while playing rugby.
The former England captain is no stranger to injuries himself, having retired in 2019 from a knee injury that had plagued him for the last year of his career.
Hartley was speaking to RugbyPass about the recent revelations and admitted that he has serious concerns about his own well being and that of his fellow players.
“I have my own issues, I don’t really want to delve into what I struggle with and what my concerns are because I am fully aware this gets picked up and put in newspapers and whatnot so I’d rather keep it personal but I have my concerns.
“I know a few guys involved and I’m in regular contact with them. That is the scariest thing, this isn’t like a doom and a scaremongering story, these guys have families and they are genuinely struggling.
Above and beyond* work that you do. Good to see the team and see the exciting new developments in progress 👏 https://t.co/aU74s7BCnO
— Dylan Hartley (@DylanHartley) December 16, 2020
“It’s scary to think that NFL has had CTE and issues with this injury for some time and we play a very similar sport and we have never recognised CTE in our players.
“We have always seen guys that have had drink problems, bankruptcy, divorce, drug problems, self-harm, suicide dare I say it and we have always said things like they haven’t transitioned well which is a big concern.
“Look, these guys might not have transitioned well but a lot of those things are linked with CTE as well and it’s like isn’t it crazy to suggest that we haven’t had CTE until now? It’s pretty scary for the game and for all those involved, there are families behind every story,” Hartley said.
‘I want to recognise my wife and kids’
The former Northampton Saints hooker admitted that had he known about the potential for developing dementia from playing rugby, he may have chosen another career.
“There’s a lot of people saying I would do it [their rugby career] all again but I have looked at these guys, these are guys who have got sore shoulders, sore knees, these are not guys who have early-onset dementia.
“If I had early-onset dementia right now and you asked me would I do it all again I would say no because I want to live a long life and I want to recognise who my kids are, my wife and those sorts of things.
“If I could do it all again and have buggered knees and a buggered back, I’d take that chance.
“But from when I started until last week, I didn’t know dementia was a potential outcome for any rugby player. That wasn’t educated or taught to us,” Hartely commented.