2003 World Cup winner Steve Thompson's latest heartbreaking update on his dementia diagnosis - Ruck

2003 World Cup winner Steve Thompson’s latest heartbreaking update on his dementia diagnosis

Former England Hooker Steve Thompson has given the latest update on his heart-breaking battle with early onset dementia.

The 2003 Rugby World Cup winner spoke on Good Morning Britain, about how he doesn’t remember winning the tournament in Australia, and how the condition has had a significant impact on his life.

Thompson spoke with Good Morning Britain presenters Ed Balls and Susanna Reid, and talked about when he first thought he had an issue with memory.

Thompson recalled sitting down during lockdown in 2020, to watch a replay of the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final, however the 44-year-old had no recollection of playing the match.

Thompson threw the decisive line-out, which built England’s attack in the last few seconds of extra time in the final.

This then gave Jonny Wilkinson the field position to slot the immortal drop goal to defeat the Wallabies, as England won the Rugby World Cup for the first and only time in their history.

Thompson said: “I started thinking about being in Australia and suddenly it was like I don’t remember, there was no recall of what had gone on and suddenly I started to think about periods of my life that had just disappeared. 

“Even when I was working, I would be going back and forth to the van to pick up tools and I would be thinking ‘I haven’t got a clue why I’m here.”’

Thompson continued to then discuss how his dementia diagnosis came to be. The former Northampton Saints player said how it was a conversation with Wales back-rower Alix Popham, which led to him being tested.

Popham has also vocalised his struggle with early onset dementia, and probable CTE within the media. Thompson recalled the conversations he had with Alix Popham and his wife Steph.

“Alix Popham phoned me and I went back to (his wife) Steph, and said, Alix has told me this. She said what he’s explained to you is what you are going through. 

“He was the first one and he sort of started it really and he said ”look I think you should get tested”, first it was the two of us and now there is over 300 that have been diagnosed and hundreds waiting to be tested.”

Thompson has been very public about his Dementia diagnosis, in an attempt to increase awareness about the dangers of traumatic brain injuries. Thompson has played a pivotal role, with his powerful and moving memoir ‘Unforgettable’ winning the Sunday Times Sports Book of the Year Award.

The Northampton Saints legend has also been a focus of a BBC Documentary entitled – ‘Head On: Rugby, Dementia & Me’. Thompson and Popham are amongst a group of retired rugby players, who are taking legal action against rugby’s Governing bodies.

The group are filing for compensation, as a result of having permanent brain injuries, due to suffering repeated concussions and sub-concussive blows whilst playing the game.

“I made a decision when I came out public with my diagnosis that I wanted to help people.” Thompson added

“We knew there was a lot (of retired players with brain injuries), but suddenly there is hundreds, so now we are setting up this foundation, and it’s not about how I got the brain injury but how do we help.”


ITV’s Dr Hilary joined Steve on the couch, and reiterated how Thompson’s dementia diagnosis is almost definitely because of the repeated head injuries he suffered during his rugby career. Hilary discussed the condition known as CTE, which can’t be definitively diagnosed in a living person. Hilary believes that Thompson is unfortunately likely to be suffering from this Neurodegenerative disease.

Dr Hilary said: “It’s called CTE; Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is a brain condition thought to be linked to head injuries caused by contact sports, whether it’s rugby, boxing, ice hockey or American football, but at least they are wearing helmets. 

“If you look at the statistics of players like Steve who have been playing the sport for this long the likelihood of this diagnoses is a lot greater.

“Much more needs to be done to protect players, to reduce the amount of impact between games and diagnostic procedures afterwards.”

Host Susanna Reid also read out a joint statement, from World Rugby and Rugby Football Union.

The statement said: “We have been saddened by the account of Steve and other brave footballers dealing with health issues. Our policies and protocols are based on the latest science, evidence and independent expert guidance, we constantly strive to safeguard all our players.”