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04th Dec 2023

Former Wales international Andrew Coombs diagnosed with dementia, aged 39

Patrick McCarry


“Sharing this news with my children was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”

Former Dragons and Wales forward Andrew Coombs has revealed a “heartbreaking” dementia diagnosis that leaves him and his family with an uncertain, and worrying, future.

The 39-year-old took to social media with the news, on Sunday. He played 10 Tests for Wales and was part of the Warren Gatland side that won the 2013 Six Nations. Coombs stated:

‘I’m writing to share some personal news that has deeply impacted my life and the lives of my loved ones,. Eight months ago, I was diagnosed with dementia and probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after suffering symptoms for around four years.

‘This first came to my attention whilst featuring on a live episode of Scrum V Sunday, where discussions around CTE symptoms resonated with me deeply. It was a challenging decision to seek medical advice. However, understanding the changes happening within me became imperative.

‘The diagnosis was a heartbreaking one but it answered many questions that had been lingering in my mind and worrying me for so long.

‘The changes put significant strain on my marriage and happiness. Sharing this news with my children was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.’

Coombs played for Pontypool and was Newport RFC captain, as well as featuring for Dragons from 2009 until his retirement, in 2016. It was a knee injury, sustained in a match against Cardiff in 2015, forced him to hang up his boots.

He made his Test debut against Ireland in February 2013. Wales lost that game but won the next four matches to win the title.

Andrew Coombs

Andrew Coombs announcement follows recently filed lawsuit

The sad Andrew Coombs news comes at a time when 212 rugby players were presented as claimants in the High Court concussion lawsuit against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union.

The players include such rugby stars such as Gavin Henson, Phil Vickery, David Corkery, Jamie Cudmore, Alix Popham, Colin Charvis, Dominic Ryan, Ian Gough, Steve Thompson and former Wales captain Ryan Jones.

On the day that lawsuit was up in the courts, in London, there was a joint statement on the matter from World Rugby, the RFU and WRU. It reads (in part):

‘Whilst today’s case management hearing was necessarily about legal process, we must not forget about the people and players at the heart of this case. Legal action prevents us reaching out to support the players involved, many of whom are named publicly for the first time today.

‘But we want them to know that we care deeply about their struggles, that we are listening and that they are members of the rugby family. The court’s ruling for the second time that the claimants’ solicitors must provide information previously asked for is a positive step.

‘Despite the court’s order from June 2023, the court noted that there was a ‘gaping hole’ in the evidence provided by the claimant’s legal team. The further delay to the case is regrettable and the players’ lawyers seemingly prioritising media coverage over meeting their legal obligations is challenging for all concerned; not least the players themselves.

‘Player welfare is rugby’s top priority and will continue to be our top priority. Rugby is committed to leading the welfare agenda in sport, driven by evolving science and research to protect and support players at all levels.’

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