A Pembrokeshire man and former Welsh rugby player, diagnosed with early onset dementia, is tackling his condition 'head on' to combat symptoms and educate others on the risks of contact sports.

Alix Popham was just 40 when doctors diagnosed him with early onset dementia. With 33 caps for Wales, Alix played in World Cups in 2003 and 2007 and was a 2008 Grand Slam winner.

He retired in 2011 and in April 2020 was diagnosed with probable CTE and early onset dementia as a result of traumatic brain injury suffered in his rugby career.

Western Telegraph: Alix with his young family.

Now, he’s taking part in one of the world’s toughest Ironmans on his home turf, competing in the Tenby event next weekend.

As well as giving him a purpose and motivation post-diagnosis, Alix is raising money to educate grassroots rugby clubs and schools on the risks of head trauma via his charity

Together, they will face one of the biggest mental and physical challenges yet to raise money for Head for Change, Alix’s charity to raise awareness and educate people about sports-related dementia in rugby.

Alix will be joined in Ironman Wales by actor, Mark Lewis Jones, and a truly incredible list of sportspeople including: Carl Hayman, Gavin Evans, Ian Gough, Shane Williams, Nigel Elson, Gareth Fairie, Joel Bramwell, Matt Tait, Matt Miller, Dan Tonge, Matt Thomas and Dave Tonge.

Alix says his mum 'broke down' following his diagnosis, realising that she sent him to play rugby from four years old. But like many, she and Alix had no idea of the risks.

Now he is fundraising for much needed educational programmes and research in the prevention and cure for early onset dementia and neurogenerative disease in the sport he loves.

On diagnosis, doctors told Alix that exercise, and a healthy lifestyle would help – so he stated to train for Ironman.

Next weekend, Sunday, September 3rd, after three years of training, Alix will compete alongside 12 other representatives from Head for Change in his first full distance Ironman triathlon, held in his home of Tenby, Wales.

A hugely demanding challenge, both physically and mentally, the Head for Change group will take on a 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile cycle, with approximately 2,070m of climbing, and ending with a 26.2 mile run that includes 396m of climbing.

To help them reach their £10,000 fundraising goal, click on the link in bold above.