World rugby champion in 2003 with England, Steve Thompson, suffering from dementia precocious, announced Thursday that he would donate his brain to science upon his death to help research into traumatic injuries.
The former player, who said last December that he had no memory of the world tournament he had played every game, is part of a group of former players with brain disorders who have launched legal proceedings against various rugby authority for negligence last December.
"I am committed to donating my brain so that the children of the people I love never have to go through what I've been through," said the 43-year-old former hooker.
"It's up to my generation to donate our brains so that researchers can develop better treatments and solutions to make our sport safer," he added.
The Concussion Legacy Project was started by the Foundation for the Study of Concussions and the Jeff Astle Foundation, named after an international footballer from West Bromwich Albion who was famous for his head game and died in 2002, at the age of 60, when he had been suffering from dementia for 5 years.
It proposes to constitute a bank of brain tissues used for research on chronic traumatic encephalopathies (CTE), which can only be formally diagnosed post-mortem, but also on other traumatic lesions to the brain.
This initiative comes at a time when the question of the links between the practice of certain sports and long-term brain damage is increasingly being raised, particularly in rugby and football.
On Wednesday, the international federation World Rugby published new guidelines recommending limiting the duration of contact training in rugby to reduce the risks to the health of players.
"The gift of the brain is the most precious that we can give to future generations of footballers," said Dawn Astle, daughter of Jeff Astle and founder of the foundation named after her father.
"It may be years before the puzzle is complete, but adding piece after piece is the only way we can see the big picture and make the future better for others," he said. she adds.
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