Rugby legends Ben Kay and Shane Williams join landmark rugby dementia study

Rugby legends Ben Kay and Shane Williams join landmark rugby dementia study to investigate potential links between the sport and illness – as 50 ex-pros step up for tests

  • Ben Kay and Shane Williams are joining landmark brain study into dementia
  • Ex-rugby stars are investigating potential links between the sport and the illness 
  • They will have scans, assessments and checks over a number of years 

World Cup winner Ben Kay and Welsh legend Shane Williams are two of 50 former rugby players joining a landmark brain study investigating potential links between the sport and dementia.

Last year a group of former players diagnosed with early-onset dementia – including Kay’s England team-mate Steve Thompson – started a class-action lawsuit against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and Welsh Rugby Union over historic approaches to head injuries.

But although Kay, 45, is not part of that group, he is keen to help scientists learn more about rugby’s links to dementia.

World Cup winner Ben Kay has landmark brain study investigating potential links to dementia

He and the other players will have scans, assessments and checks over a number of years to help build a database which can be compared to the normal population. It is hoped it will show whether or not rugby players are at greater risk of developing dementia.

Kay told Sportsmail: ‘I’m hoping this is the start of the process of finding a solution. Knowledge and data are key, and this study which the Alzheimer’s Society have fantastically supported, as that sort of thing isn’t cheap, will allow us to build a bank of data.

‘There’s a selfish reason for doing this. The more information you know about yourself the better, but equally it’s helping others.

‘Hopefully this study will feed into finding a cure for the general population.

‘I’d be very surprised, knowing rugby players, if there were many who wouldn’t want to be part of this. I feel very fortunate that I have. You have a duty to find some answers.’

The study, PREVENT:RFC, funded by £250,000 from the Alzheimer’s Society – will run alongside an informal one involving footballers, among them Alan Shearer.

Williams (pictured) will also have scans, assessments and checks over a number of years

Williams (pictured) will also have scans, assessments and checks over a number of years

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