Ex-England rugby star Sam Burgess worries he may develop degenerative disease

Sam Burgess has revealed he undergoes twice-yearly brain scans over fears that he may one day develop a degenerative disease linked to his time playing rugby.

The Yorkshireman shot to stardom after impressing in his early years with Bradford Bulls, before being coaxed by actor Russell Crowe to move to his South Sydney Rabbitohs in Australia.

His playing career spanned 14 years, including a brief spell in rugby union in which he was fast-tracked into the England squad for their disastrous Rugby World Cup campaign in 2015.

The 32-year-old returned to rugby league later that year and stayed with the Rabbitohs until his 2019 retirement through a career-ending shoulder injury.

Late on during his playing career he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, though further tests showed that he had been misdiagnosed.

Burgess is currently competing in reality TV show SAS Australia, where he revealed the toll that all those big hits over the course of his career had taken on his health.

"In the end, the specialist, he cleared me of MS, but he warned me that there’s a couple of signs there that it could be leading that way," he said.

"I think there’s damage on my brain. Loads of white dots. It showed up on the MRI.

"It was an eye-opener that the brains are complex with contact sport, and a lot of the research that’s coming out, there’s obviously risks.

"It was something that I took very seriously. I have to get my brain scans every six months to check if it’s degenerating or getting worse or improving."

Traumatic brain injuries and the long-term, degenerative conditions, they can lead to are currently under the microscope as part of a review into the dangers of the sport.

Around 175 former rugby professionals are currently involved in a class-action legal battle against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union, accusing them of failing to protect players.

Burgess is not a part of the class, but those who are include former Welsh international Alix Popham, who was last year diagnosed with early onset dementia and probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and ex-England prop Jason Hobson.

"I don’t know what is around the corner and it does scare me. Your notepad wouldn’t be thick enough to list all the injuries I had," Hobson said.

"I knew there would be physical issues but not for one second did I think there would be a possible brain damage outcome of just playing and training.

"In 10 years I could be in a home. I could have full dementia, not just forgetting a few words here or there."

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