Former Auckland Blues scrum-half Billy Guyton has been found to have CTE after his family donated his brain to the University of Auckland’s ‘brain bank’. Maurice Curtis, co-director of the Brain Bank, said in a statement Friday that stage 2 CTE had been identified in Guyton, who died in May 2023 at age 33, by a pathologist based in New Zealand and assisted by a specialist in Australia.

CTE has been associated with repeated hits to the head in a number of contact sports and is known to cause violent outbursts, dementia and depression. Guyton’s father John told Radio New Zealand these symptoms applied to his son, who retired early in 2018 after suffering concussions.

“The poor man spent hours in a little dark closet because he couldn’t stand to be in the light,” John Guyton said. “Some mornings he would sit at the bottom of his shower tray crying, trying to muster the energy to move.” The discovery comes as a group of nearly 300 former rugby players, including Steve Thompson and Phil Vickery, World Cup winners with England in 2003, decided to take legal action over the injuries brain problems from which they suffer.

These players claim that World Rugby, as well as the English and Welsh Unions, failed to take reasonable measures to protect their health and safety. Injuries caused by blows to the head are thought to cause other disorders such as motor neuron disease, dementia praecox, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

In a statement, the New Zealand Federation assured that it had taken measures to reduce the danger of head impacts. “The NZR also supports cutting-edge research to better understand the long-term impacts of playing rugby, particularly to understand the link between concussions and long-term brain health,” the text specifies.