He was one of the toughest on the field, but a debilitating brain neurodegenerative condition has claimed the health of NRL legend Wally Lewis.
In an interview on 60 Minutes on Sunday night, Lewis revealed he has been diagnosed with “probably CTE” – chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Lewis had been suffering from severe short term memory loss, presented in the interview when he was unable to recall the disease he had been diagnosed with.
“Probable CTE,” his partner, Lynda Adams, assisted off-screen.
“In one of my first meetings with the doctor, when she asked to repeat simple things – I think she gave me five things, and it might have been something like bus, dog, truck, camera, chair. And she said, ‘Remember those.’ And went over them two or three times,” Lewis said.
“A minute later she said, ‘What are the things I asked you to remember?’ And I got two of them. And then sometime later, after that, she said, ‘Do you remember what they were?’ And I think I said ‘bus’.
“Pride’s a wonderful thing, but there wasn’t much of it around then.”
CTE was first cited in boxers about 100 years ago but has since been diagnosed in players of contact sports including AFL, NRL and American football.
The disease is a progressive and fatal condition sustained by repeated knocks to the head and causes memory loss, behavioural issues, and deterioration of cognitive skills.
While it cannot be accurately diagnosed until someone dies via an autopsy, Lewis’ neurologist, Rowena Mobbs told 60 Minutes she was “90 per cent” sure the NRL great had the disease.
Lewis has made the decision to donate his brain for research when he passes and hopes to create awareness by sharing his story.
“We’re not seeking sympathy, we’re seeking support,” he said.
If you or someone has been diagnosed with dementia, there National Dementia Helpline provides support at 1800 100 500 or dementia.org.au
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