England prop Joe Marler has “buried his head in the sand” over the dangers of dementia from playing rugby, admitting that on one occasion he had forgotten he had children.
The 32-year-old, who has played 83 times for England, made the admission just days after former Wales captain Ryan Jones, 41, revealed he was suffering from early onset dementia, probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
“It’s awful for Ryan to be told that and be going through that,” Marler said in an interview with TalkSport.
“It has kind of struck a chord with me because it’s been quite well spoken about in rugby over the last few years with all of the discoveries that they’ve had with concussions and the relation to it all.
“I’ve just buried my head in the sand, to be honest because it scares me.
“I remember getting knocked out a couple of seasons ago – a big, big blow when I was trying to tackle Billy Vunipola. I was out cold and the next thing I remember was being in the physio room and the kit man came in.”
The kit man asked Marler whether his wife and children were at the match.
“I just paused and broke down and I had no recollection of having kids and it just really scared the life out of me,” he said.
How rugby deals with the issue of head injuries and concussion has become a major talking point within the game.
A number of ex-players, including England World Cup winner Steve Thompson and Jones’ former Test team-mate Alix Popham, are part of a legal case against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union over an alleged failure to protect them from concussion risks.
Marler, however, remains sanguine about the repercussions of playing the game.
“Those concussions happen in rugby, it’s a contact sport,” he said.
“I just ignore it and bury my head in the sand, but the more it comes out and the more apparent it becomes in the sport, the more boys are getting diagnosed with this stuff, it’s sad.”
Marler admitted playing on through a concussion last season only to be admonished at home by his wife Daisy.
“The look I got from her, she was like ‘no, I’m not having it any more. If you get a head knock, you follow the right protocols and you tell someone because it’s not about you anymore’.
“She said: ‘do you want to be here for the kids, or not? Do you want to be here for me, or not?’
“They’re definitely things that I think about a little bit more.”
Marler said improvements were being made and players were becoming better informed about the risks in rugby.
“There is always going to be that element of danger and you don’t want to remove it so that it isn’t rugby anymore.
“But you do want to be well informed going into it. As long as I am informed with what the dangers are I can make an informed choice.”
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON