'Head On: Rugby, Dementia and Me': Rugby fans appalled by lack of support for Steve Thompson

Head on: Rugby, Dementia and Me
Steve Thompson spoke out about rugby and early onset dementia. (BBC)

Rugby fans have expressed their shock at the lack of support for former England hooker Steve Thompson after he spoke out about having early onset dementia in a BBC documentary.

Head On: Rugby, Dementia and Me aired on BBC Two on Wednesday, where the 44-year-old ex rugby union player showed the devastating effects dementia has had on his life, and explained how he thought years of head injuries caused by the sport he loved are to blame.

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Thompson is one of more than 200 former players now taking legal action against rugby union’s governing bodies, and viewers were outraged to see the lack of support the sport has offered to him now that his career is over.

One viewer tweeted: "Watching the story of Steve Thompson's struggle with dementia after all his rugby bumps to his head. It is heart breaking and everyone that is a rugby lover should watch it and understand what and why there should be more done to head injuries in rugby."

Someone else wrote: "Just watching the Steve Thompson documentary on BBC2. It’s a tough, tough watch. If we are going to have rugby - particularly pro rugby - in future then the whole game needs to listen and change. And we need to look after people like Steve. Because we haven’t up until now."

Another person added: "This bbc2 doc with Steve Thompson is heartbreaking. Absolute hero who won the WC for England now 42 years old with dementia. The rugby community/RFU etc leaving him behind is shameful."

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Someone else agreed: "I have loved rugby my entire life so watching Steve Thompson’s documentary about #dementia in the sport was tough. We have to do more to support ex-players and stop more people suffering in the same way."

Head on: Rugby, Dementia and Me
Steve Thompson met with brain experts to understand his condition. (BBC)

In heartbreaking scenes filmed over the course of a year, Thompson forgot the names of his children and hid away memorabilia from his sparkling career which included winning the 2003 Rugby World Cup as he could not remember the achievements.

One viewer tweeted: "I remember exactly where I was when England won the rugby world cup. Steve Thompson doesn't..and he was on the pitch. Rugby: Dementia and me is a heartbreaking, but necessary, documentary highlighting early onset #dementia in sport."

Someone else wrote: "So sad to see rugby legend Steve Thompson forget the name of his eldest daughter while making pancakes on BBC TV tonight. So disgraceful to see how little rugby is doing to protect the players from head injury and dementia and related diseases."

Thompson has said he wishes he had never played rugby because of the horrific effects he has been left with, and tweeted to thank fans for their support - saying it had been a tough documentary to make.

He wrote: "Absolutely overwhelmed by everyone’s messages of support after my BBC documentary last night. Making the programme wasn’t an easy decision for me and Steph so thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Please, please follow @ProgressiveRug and help us make the changes needed."

Watch: Rugby union star opens up about dementia battle