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knock it out Brian O’Driscoll says rugby is taking a 'huge step forward in the right direction' in dealing with head injuries

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Brian O'Driscoll

Brian O'Driscoll

Brian O'Driscoll

FORMER Ireland rugby captain Brian O’Driscoll believes the game has made huge improvements in recent years on dealing with head injuries, amid warnings the sport faces a wave of dementia cases amongst ex-professionals.

In recent days England World Cup winner Steve Thompson (42) revealed he can no longer remember winning the trophy after being diagnosed with early onset dementia.

A number of ex-players including Thompson are taking legal action against rugby authorities for negligence.

All of the players are under 45 and blame the early onset of dementia on the blows they received to the head while playing and training.

O’Driscoll said the issue raises major questions for rugby.

“I played during that era as well, where it was seen as heroic to get a knock on the head and stand up and stumble back into the defensive line, and try and make another collision or make another hit,” he told Newstalk.

“You would get great kudos from the commentators and from the crowd. It’s crazy to think that that is not that long ago.”

He said while rugby authorities have made a “huge step forward in the right direction” he believes there is still work to be done.

“It is a concern with pending court cases and it sounds like there’s a number of individuals that are in that situation,” he said.

He added that such cases could put people off the game.

“As a parent, who would be hopeful that either of their kids might go into rugby… and any parent that’s choosing what sport their kid might play, it’s definitely going to be a turn-off for them,’ he said.

“But I hope that we’ll get something positive out of it and… we’re going to learn in a major way from the shortcomings of 15 years ago.”

Speaking earlier this week Thompson said he wishes he never turned pro.

"I have no recollection of winning the World Cup in 2003, or of being in Australia for the tournament," he said.

"Knowing what I know now, I wish that I had never turned professional. I went from working on a building site and training twice a week to training every day, sometimes twice a day.

"Many of those training sessions were contact sessions using a scrummage machine and I would be in the thick of things, with all the pressure pushed on me.

"It was not uncommon for me to be left dazed, seeing white spots and not knowing where I was for a few seconds, sometimes I would pass out completely. It was just an accepted part and parcel of training.

"I really wished that I had ended my career earlier, maybe my diagnosis might not be so bleak."

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