NRL legend Steve Mortimer’s family have lifted the lid on the telltale sign the Bulldogs were in the middle of a battle with dementia.
Mortimer, 67, was diagnosed with the brain disease at the age of 60 after suffering countless blows throughout his glorious playing career. He now lives in a nursing home to get the full-time care he needs.
The husband, father and grandfather were left in a childlike state, reports The Australian, and a growing number of footballing legends met the same fate in the final years of their lives.
And Mortimer’s wife Karen and their children Andrew, Matt and Erin have shared how they began to wonder if there was something wrong with him.
“He often misplaced things like his keys, wallet, and phone,” Erin said.
Steve Mortimer’s family have found out about the telltale signs of his dementia (Pictured at right: Mortimer’s daughter Erin)
“He had a hard time coming up with simple words like ‘car’, ‘remote control’ and ‘television’. He often got frustrated when he couldn’t find the word and was hard on himself.
“His paranoia and constant questioning about where mom was and only a short time later forgot to ask again was revealing.”
Andrew ran a small business with his father, but found himself writing lengthy emails, and the inconsistency of those messages set off alarm bells.
Matt noticed changes in his father that seemed out of character for him. “I think you’re aging very quickly, there’s something wrong,” he said.
On a trip to London in 2019, Karen noticed her husband was in trouble.
The couple had visited the city many times before, but when he went to get a coffee it took him an hour and a half to return. Mortimer said to his wife, “I’m lost.”
During the Covid lockdown, Erin said: “It was a horrible time for everyone but at that time we saw how he was doing even more.”
“It was complete mood swings that came out of nowhere and worsened his attitude towards his mother and Andrew.”
“Sometimes it was very difficult to watch. We learned to work with them and not against them, sometimes with the help of dad who gave him medication.”
Now Karen says she will continue to advocate for better protection of players’ brain health.
The Bulldogs tall player is in a nursing home due to dementia he contracted 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 topic to be swept under the rug.” I want the actual research to be front and center. If we can clear up the clutter and go to the right sources, you will help every single player.
“One must protect the players from themselves.” That is what Stephen said, for every one of them will say; ‘I’m doing well. “I can go back to the field.”
“They’re not a commodity for the game … I think the NRL is on the right track, but they have to move on … I want them to listen to the people who know what they’re talking about.”
“Don’t listen to people who try to cover up the problem or mitigate it altogether.”