Steve Thompson struggles to recall memories from his rugby career
Watch Head On: Rugby, Dementia and Me on BBC Two on Wednesday, 5 October at 21:00 GMT and on BBC iPlayer.

Steve Thompson has packed his stuff up. It's too painful to have reminders around since he started losing his memory.

As he opens the box containing his medals, he says he is embarrassed by them.

The 44-year-old feels like a phoney. I don't feel like I've done it.

Thompson would like to not have done it. He thinks that taking hundreds of blows to the head during his career may have led to early onset dementia.

He says that if he hadn't done it, he wouldn't be a burden.

Thompson is the subject of a harrowing hour-long film on the British Broadcasting Corporation.

He tried to describe the "out-of-body" sensation of the brain fogs he suffered in a scene. It's an example.

He describes leaving his car running for hours and forgetting the names of his kids.

Thompson has spoken before about how he has had suicidal thoughts due to dementia.

He was part of a group of rugby players who launched a legal case in 2020.

The film shows Thompson and his family coming to terms with his diagnosis, as well as him lending his voice to the fight to make rugby safer.

The release of the documentary comes after new research was published about a link between sport and neurodegenerative diseases.

Professor Willie Stewart said that rugby authorities should consider eliminating contact training and reducing the global calendar.

'You were just told to get on with it'

Thompson was diagnosed with early onset dementia in 2020 and he believes it's most likely due to a brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

He says in the film that the disease is caused by sub-concussions.

Thompson visits a professor of neuroscience at Imperial College London. Prof Gentleman says that there is no known cure for a condition that gets worse with time.

Steve Thompson discusses 'sketchy' injury protocols with Lewis Moody & Ben Cohen

When rugby became a professional sport in 1995 he believes that concussion and full-contact training were unsafe. He described doing 100 live scrums.

He says that if you were knocked out, you were told to keep going.

You were given headaches pills if you had one. The injury was not known as an injury. You can still run if you haven't pulled your leg.

Thompson said players were told their heads were their main weapon.

He said the pressure on his head would be "enormous".

The scrum machine was put into the ground so it wouldn't move.

The pressure is coming through your body instead of the machine. The pressure goes all the way into your head when they break off.

You pass out as you leave. They would give me time to do it again. You would have seen blood vessels all around your eyes.

'You don't feel like you deserve to be on this earth'

Thompson is prone to moods such as depression and forgetfulness.

Sometimes he can't remember his children's names.

His wife says they have young children. You might not know them when they are teenagers.

Thompson said his brain needed 12 hours of charging in order to get an hour of activity.

He lost his job because of his condition.

How many people were interested in hiring me? He says he's broken to them.

If you've been diagnosed with dementia and you're on a work site, the insurance companies won't pay out.

You can't understand until you're there yourself. You don't feel like you deserve to be here, and you don't feel like you deserve to drag everyone down.

Thompson has learned some techniques from his therapist.

He sprays perfume on his arm. They pull me out of my phone when I get anxious.

'There's not many care homes that will take young men'

Rugby union's governing bodies are being sued by more than 180 players who claim that playing the sport caused brain damage.

He describes being trolled by rugby fans during the film.

The Rugby Football Union is the governing body of rugby in England.

He says the RFU has not supported him since he began the legal action.

Thompson wants compensation if he needs specialized care.

He does not want his children to have to give up their lives to look after him.

You're talking 10 grand if I have to go into a house. There aren't many care homes that will accept young men.

I did what I was paid to do." I did my best to train as hard as possible. It's other people's jobs to take care of you.

Concussion protocol 'a little start'

Thompson wants rugby to be made safer, with less contact training, a longer stand down period for players returning from concussion, and a process of brain scans.

If a player's heart isn't quite right, they're not allowed to play. What is different with a mind?

Sport was allowed to "mark its own homework" on reducing the risks of brain injury, and recommended a standard definition of concussion, as well as a paid medical officer at every major sporting event.

In September last year, World Rugby recommended limiting full contact training to 15 minutes per week.

Thompson said he would be doing about 10 hours of contact training a week.

He doesn't think it's enough to make recommendations.

He says in the film that it feels like a joke and that it can easily be ignored.

In June this year, World Rugby extended its concussion stand-down period from six to 12 days.

Thompson thinks the sport can go further.

He says it needs to be at least three weeks before he will allow his children to play rugby.

World Rugby embraces innovation and technological advancement to further the identification, management and prevention of head impacts.

The laws of the game, revised guidance on contact training load, and research using instrumented mouthguards are just some of the things that have been delivered by this proactive commitment.

The RFU said it had helped establish concussion and injury surveillance, concussion assessment, and law changes to ensure proactive management of player welfare.

The launch of an advanced brain health clinic for retired players was one of the things that the Rugby Players' Association and the Rugby Players' Association have done.

Player welfare is always a priority for Northampton Saints, where Thompson spent the majority of his career. Proper monitoring for and management of head injuries has been ensured by the implementation of concussion protocols.

If you or someone you know has been affected by any issues raised in this article, support and information is available at the action line.