NRL legend’s family reveal the telltale sign he had dementia years before he was diagnosed

The NRL legend’s family reveals telltale sign he had dementia years before he was diagnosed

  • Steve Mortimer’s family has revealed the telltale signs he had dementia
  • The football legend was diagnosed with brain disease at the age of 60
  • Now his family is trying to raise awareness to protect today’s players

The family of NRL legend Steve Mortimer has opened up the telltale sign that the big Bulldogs were in the midst of a dementia battle.

Mortimer, 67, was diagnosed with the brain disease aged 60 after taking numerous blows during his illustrious playing career. He now lives in a nursing home where he receives the full care he needs.

The husband, father and grandfather have been left in a childlike state, The Australian reports, with a growing number of football legends suffering the same fate in the final years of their lives.

And Mortimer’s wife Karen and their children Andrew, Matt and Erin have shared when they started to wonder if there was something wrong with him.

“He often lost things like his keys, wallet, and phone,” Erin said.

Steve Mortimer’s family have noticed the telltale signs he had dementia (pictured right: Mortimer’s daughter Erin)

‘It was his struggle to find easy words like car, remote control and TV. He often became frustrated when he couldn’t find the word, and was hard on himself.

“His paranoia and constantly asking where Mom was and then forgetting to ask again was telling.”

Andrew ran a small business with his father, but found himself writing long-winded emails and the incoherence of those messages set alarm bells ringing.

Matt noticed changes in his father that seemed unusual for him. “I’m like, You’re aging really fast, something’s not right,” he said.

For Karen, a trip to London in 2019 was the moment she noticed her husband was in trouble.

The couple had visited the city before, but when he went to get coffee, it took him an hour and a half to get back. Mortimer said to his wife, “I’m lost.”

During the Covid lockdown, Erin said: ‘It’s been a terrible time for everyone, but around this time we saw him spiral even more.

“It was complete mood swings that came out of nowhere, and his attitude towards Mother and Andrew would worsen.

“It was really hard to watch at times. We learned to work with them and not against them, sometimes with the help of Dad who was on medication.’

Now Karen says she will continue to campaign for better protection of players’ brain health.

The Bulldogs Great are in a care home due to dementia suffered during his playing career

The Bulldogs Great are in a care home due to dementia suffered during his playing career

“Stephen wanted the game to be safer and I will continue to be his voice on this matter,” she said. “I don’t want this issue to be swept under the rug. I want the real research to come out. If we can clean up the mess and get to the right resources, you’re going to help every player.

You have to protect the players from themselves. This is what Stephen said, because every one of them will say; ‘I’m fine. I can get back on the field.”

“They are not commodities to the game… I think the NRL are on the right track, but they need to keep going… I want them to listen to the people who know what they are talking about.

“Don’t listen to the people who try to put a veil over the problem or try to reduce the problem altogether.”