Carl Hayman, former All Blacks mainstay with dementia precocious, revives debate on concussions among rugby players

Presented during his career as the best pillar in the world, Hayman won three European Cups with Toulon between 2013 and 2015.

Former All Blacks and Toulon Racing club stalwart Carl Hayman has joined legal action against rugby authorities, launched by many former players with neurological disorders, after he himself revealed he was suffering from 41 years of precocious dementia.

Selected 45 times with New Zealand, the athlete explained that he consulted after having experienced memory loss, a feeling of confusion and thoughts of suicide. “I spent several years thinking I was going crazy, and at some point that’s really what I thought”, explained the former player to the New Zealand site The Bounce. “It was constant headaches and all these things that happened that I couldn’t understand”, he detailed.

Tests showed that he suffered from premature dementia and probable chronic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease. This diagnosis prompted him to join the action brought by around 150 players, especially in England, against the rugby authorities.

In December, this group of former professionals, including England’s Steve Thompson and Welshman Alix Popham, announced their intention to seek compensation from World Rugby and the English and Welsh federations after diagnoses of neurological disorders. “The youngest prospects need to know where they are headed. There needs to be more support and better oversight around head injuries and workloads ”, insisted Carl Hayman.

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The modified rules

The ex-player explained that one of the reasons he joined the existing complaints was to bring about sweeping changes in the way rugby is played and to minimize the risk of head injuries. “I hope that in the future the players will not fall into the same trap as me, that they will not be treated as objects and will be treated better”, he hopes.

“The problem of the link between concussions and long-term cognitive problems is extremely complex, and science is evolving”, reacted the boss of the New Zealand rugby federation, Mark Robinson. “New Zealand Rugby will continue to prioritize the well-being of players and make the sport safe for everyone”, he added.

All Blacks assistant coach John Plumtree has shown his sympathy for Hayman and said the rules of rugby have since been changed to protect players’ heads and reduce the number of concussions. “We have a responsibility to make sure that the game is safe and that parents want their children to play it”, he stressed.

World Rugby, the body of world rugby, for its part announced that it had not been contacted by Hayman, and did not comment on her statements, reaffirming that for her, “The well-being of the players is the priority of sport”.

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Three European Cups with Toulon

Presented during his career as the best pillar in the world, Hayman won, in addition to his record with the All Blacks, three European Cups with Toulon between 2013 and 2015 before announcing his retirement as a player. He then trained the Pau forwards before being suspended in early 2019 following an altercation between him and several Pau players.

He was sentenced the same year to a four-month suspended prison sentence by a court in Pau (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) for domestic violence against his wife, from whom he then separated. Carl Hayman then admitted to having alcoholism problems.

Also in 2019, the former player took part in a cycling trip across the UK to benefit a charity fighting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Charcot’s disease. He was responding to the call of Doddie Weir, the former Scottish international second-line who announced in 2017 that he was suffering from this neurodegenerative disease.

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The World with AFP


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