England rugby legend to headline brain injury event

Steve Thompson during the 2003 Rugby World Cup 

Steve Thompson during the 2003 Rugby World Cup - Credit: PA

Rugby world cup champion and England legend Steve Thompson will be the keynote speaker at a Headway Suffolk event on brain injuries in spring.

The Neuro Conference is an annual event which was postponed in 2020 and has been carried over to this year, and while organisers hope it might be held in person they are prepared to host it digitally on Wednesday, May 12.

Mr Thompson has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia and probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after 73 caps for England and is one of seven players taking legal action against rugby unions for failing to protect them from risks caused by concussion.

CTE is a degenerative brain condition that is thought to be caused by repeated blows to the head, brought to wider attention by the 2015 film Concussion starring Will Smith, which dramatized the discovery of American football players suffering from the effects.

Mr Thompson cannot remember winning the world cup in 2003 and sometimes forgets his wife's name.

Another of the keynote speakers will be Sam Norris, a 17-year-old speedway rider for the Mildenhall Fens Tigers who had to relearn to walk and talk again after being left in a coma when struck by a bike at 50mph.

Suffolk speedway racer Sam Norris battled his way back to health after suffering serious head injuries in a crash. 

Suffolk speedway racer Sam Norris battled his way back to health after suffering serious head injuries in a crash. - Credit: Carol Downie


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His mother Claire, a special needs teaching assistant and intervener, will join him as she is keen to highlight the hidden effects of brain injury after struggling to get the right educational support for him.

Dawn Astle, daughter of former England striker Jeff Astle, will be speaking about her work with the foundation set up in his honour after the FA Cup winner's death in 2002.

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The foundation raises awareness of brain injury in sport and works with governing bodies to deliver independent research into the links between sport, brain injuries and neurodegenerative illnesses.

Dawn Astle is is daughter of former England striker Jeff Astle and campaigner for better safety in football after the FA...

Dawn Astle is is daughter of former England striker Jeff Astle and campaigner for better safety in football after the FA Cup winner died due to the concussive effects of heading a leather football - Credit: West Brom FC

The links between dementia and football came to prominence recently with Sir Bobby Charlton being the fifth of England’s 1966 World Cup winning team diagnosed with the disease, which includes Nobby Stiles and Jack Charlton, who passed away last year.

The other two speakers will be rehabilitation neuroscientist Dr Michael Grey and consultant in stroke medicine Dr Sajid Alam.

Dr Michael Grey is a rehabilitation neuroscientist at the University of East Anglia, specialising in neuroplasticity and...

Dr Michael Grey is a rehabilitation neuroscientist at the University of East Anglia, specialising in neuroplasticity and neurorehabilitation associated with acquired brain injury - Credit: Headway Suffolk

Dr Sajid Alam is a consultant in stroke medicine at the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation and a stroke lead at...

Dr Sajid Alam is a consultant in stroke medicine at the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation and a stroke lead at Ipswich Hospital - Credit: Headway Suffolk

Tickets can be booked online here for £20.

The conference is sponsored by East of England Co-op, Irwin Mitchell, Ashtons Legal and Slater and Gordon.

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