Ryan Jones: Ex-Wales captain reveals early onset diagnosis of dementia
Wales Grand Slam winner Ryan Jones has announced he has been diagnosed with early onset dementia.
Jones, 41, won 75 caps for Wales between 2004 and 2014 and also played in three Tests for the British and Irish Lions.
The former back row said he was diagnosed with probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in December 2021.
Specialists told him he was one of the worst cases they had seen.
“I feel like my world is falling apart,” Jones told the Sunday Times.
“And I’m really scared. Because I have three children and three stepchildren and I want to be an amazing father.
“I’ve lived like a superhero for 15 years of my life and I’m not. I don’t know what the future will bring.
“I am a product of an environment that is about process and human performance.
“I’m not able to play like I could. And I just want to live a happy, healthy, normal life.
“I feel like that has been taken away from me and there is nothing I can do.
“I can’t train harder, I can’t referee, I don’t know the rules of the game anymore.”
Jones captained his country 33 times, including captaining the 2008 Grand Slam-winning team, before retiring from playing in 2015.
Following his retirement, he took up the role of performance director of Welsh Rugby Union but resigned in October 2020.
The former Ospreys forward was initially diagnosed with depression and developed short-term memory problems.
“It scares me because I don’t know if we’re sitting here in two years and these episodes are one week long, two week long or permanent,” Jones added.
“That’s the fear, that’s the little bit that never goes away. That’s the little bit I can’t shake.
“Every episode I have leaves a bit of a legacy as well. Everything we call off, every relationship I’m poisoning or running out of time for just makes it that little bit harder to deal with.
“I don’t know how to slow this down, stop what I’m supposed to be doing.”
In May, the Alzheimer’s Society partnered with organizations such as the Rugby Players’ Association to provide a permanent way for players or managers who have either been diagnosed with dementia or who are caring for a loved one to have a referral.
Jones claimed he would not change his experience of ‘living the dream’ of playing for Wales but believes the sport of rugby union needs to do more to take preventive action.
“It’s running headlong with your eyes closed into a catastrophic situation,” he said.