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England Rugby League star donates brain to science

Last updated 11 months ago | By Mirror

James Graham is hoping the move will reveal more about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease thought to be linked to repeated head blows [Courtesy]

England Rugby League star James Graham has donated his brain to science to help fight the condition which killed footballer Jeff Astle.

Graham, 33, is believed to be the first sportsman still playing to sign over his brain.

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He hopes it will reveal more about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease thought to be linked to repeated head blows.

Former England striker and West Brom star Astle died from CTE in 2002.

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He was just 59 but had the brain of an 89-year-old.

Last year ex-Gillingham player Rod Taylor, 74, became the second British footballer known to have died from CTE.

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It’s has been diagnosed in NFL stars in the US and ex-players in Australia’s National Rugby League.

Former England striker and West Brom star Jeff Astle died from CTE in 2002 [Courtesy]

Graham, from Maghull, Merseyside, who won more than 40 England caps for his country, played for St Helens before moving to Australia and now stars for St George Illawarra Dragons in the NRL.

He said: “My brain and spinal cord, if I’m in Sydney, will be going to Sydney University. Now they’ve found CTE in former NRL players, it brings talk about concussion back to the table.

"I’m really pleased to see the game is taking it seriously.”

He will also have tests during the rest of his career to study the effects of blows to the brain, explaining: “I’ve been on the receiving end of concussions and head traumas, so I’m trying to arm myself with as much information as possible’.”

James Graham, 33, is believed to be the first sportsman still playing to sign over his brain [Courtesy]

Graham’s former St Helens and England colleague Jon Wilkin, 35, also worries about repeated minor head injuries and wants more research.

The BBC pundit, who plays for Toronto Wolfpack added: “I just wonder if something can be done now.

"In 30 years, we’ll look back in horror at what we did to ourselves.”

A recent study found ex-football and rugby players with dementia were six times more likely to have CTE than other dementia sufferers.