Steve Thompson’s Head On: Rugby, Dementia and Me is the most shocking thing I’ve ever seen on TV

As a TV viewer, I pride myself on not being shocked. As a fan of Gogglebox, you don’t even have to search for gender and violence yourself – it’s all provided by the editorial team. And that’s how I explained to my mother why a woman would take a picture of her dress.

o, pretty hard here. Not many surprises for me. But Head On: Rugby, Dementia and Me (BBC2) is the most shocking thing I’ve ever seen on television. In it, Steve Thompson explains how his football career caused him to develop early dementia. He’s 44 years old.

Steve Thompson grew up in Northampton and he had a rough childhood. He has found a family, of sorts, in rugby where he can channel his anger and become dominant. He played for Northampton and in 2003 on the World Cup-winning England team, assumed his position as the top middle hook of the scrum. He retired from rugby 11 years ago.

These days, he frequently forgets the names of his four children. He lost his job as a liaison of some sort because he couldn’t remember what he had to communicate. Now he worries about what’s coming to his family, and about the cost of long-term care, as he puts it, “later”. The show was filmed over the course of a year. Steve is an excellent interviewer, even when he’s distracted in front of the camera. “Four years ago, some of my most precious memories started to disappear,” he said.

He doesn’t remember attending the births of his children. He doesn’t remember being in Australia for the World Cup. He doesn’t remember meeting the queen when he received his MBE.


Steve Thompson celebrates winning the 2003 World Cup with England, a feat he no longer remembers. Odd Andersen / Getty’s photo

But it’s not this that shocks me. Those are not the scenes when he meets a neuropathologist who explains that CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) is caused by the thousands of concussions and secondary concussions that rugby players experience. . “One player in every game has a head injury,” said one MP in the House of Commons, who was part of the parliamentary inquiry into concussions in sports.

Steve walked down the hallway with the much smaller doctor (most people were smaller than him) and was very calm, even looking at a brain in a tray. Referring to concussions and secondary concussions, he said simply that rugby players can make “80,000 to 100,000 in our careers, no breaks in between.”

No, the shock started when he started describing how he and what his wife described as his “poor head” had been treated by the people in charge of rugby. Steve says the brain damage happens “during practice, not during the game”. After professional rugby arrived on the scene, the players were encouraged to give up their day jobs and practice all week. For front row players, this means practice and stress “on machines that don’t move”. Sometimes Steve gets black in the face after practicing on the tumblers, which look like steam machines. But he will lie on the ground for a while after he is exhausted and then he will practice more on the same scrum machine. This is a habit.

Meanwhile, the players are getting thinner and faster and gaining weight. “The noise you hear about people colliding is unbelievable,” said Sam Peters, a football fan and journalist who started writing reviews of the new mode.

Ten years ago, Peters published articles with titles like “The Midweek Game Is Madness”. “That was 10 years ago,” he said. “Unfortunately for rugby, the ticking time bomb went off.”

Undoubtedly, this scandal and its manned trials both here and in the UK spell out the end of rugby as we know it. After watching this documentary, I can only say as soon as possible. “I don’t want to be bitter,” Steve said. “I don’t want other people to go through this, because it’s the truth.”

Video of the day


2 Johnnies enjoying a milkshake in Texas. Hannah Devaney’s photo

Then there’s The 2 Johnnies, fascinated by themselves in 2 Johnnies Do America (RTÉ2, Monday). They started in Mexico to find material for their radio show. They don’t seem to be curious about Mexico, a place where, it seems, Johnny says “there is nothing organized except crime”. I thought the same could be said about our dear homeland, but we’ll let that pass.

Johnnies said they were worried about crossing the border into the United States, ignoring the fact that they were two whites there would be no problems, and that people died trying to cross the same border. there.

For The 2 Johnnies, it’s like going to a nightclub, and they say as much. Not even Jeremy Clarkson can manage this about someone else’s history.

2 Johnnies Do America basically Top gear with smaller vehicles. Nothing remarkable happened. It’s a bit like watching someone else’s vacation video; and in fact that is exactly what it is. Just one scene in a restaurant during a etiquette lesson in Dallas was amusing. Otherwise, The 2 Johnnies will have to work a lot harder, for a long time. Ant and Dec they don’t. Steve Thompson’s Head On: Rugby, Dementia and Me is the most shocking thing I’ve ever seen on TV

Fry Electronics Team

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