Wally Lewis reveals harrowing diagnosis of CTE and how his glamorous new girlfriend knew something was seriously wrong

Wally Lewis has revealed he likely suffers from a degenerative brain disorder after years of repeated beatings to the head during his storied rugby league career.

The 63-year-old king remains physically fit but his brain is failing him and doctors are 90% sure he has developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Horror is a progressive and fatal form of dementia caused by multiple concussions.

It is becoming increasingly common among retired contact sports athletes around the world and leads to memory loss, behavioral problems and deterioration of basic cognitive skills.

But little is still known about CTE, and it can only be officially diagnosed after a person dies and a brain autopsy is performed.

The father-of-three’s girlfriend, Linda Adams, said she knew something was wrong when he started repeating the same stories over and over.

“I remember Wally would pick me up and talk to me about something while we were driving,” Ms Adams told 60 Minutes.

Wally Lewis has revealed he likely suffers from a degenerative brain disorder after years of repeated beatings to the head during his storied rugby league career.

Wally Lewis has revealed he likely suffers from a degenerative brain disorder after years of repeated beatings to the head during his storied rugby league career.

‘About three minutes later he was saying ‘Ah!’ as if he had never told me and then told me the same story.

“I said ‘okay,’ then about three to five minutes later I told the same story. That kind of stuff stands out the most. The repetitive stories.

The couple reunited after Lewis and his wife Jacqui split in 2021, after 36 years. Mrs. Adams was by his side throughout the devastating ordeal.

Lewis’ diagnosis was later all but confirmed by his doctor Rowena Mobb, after performing a simple memory test.

“During one of my first meetings with the doctor, she asked me to repeat simple things. I think it could have been five things and it could have been anything like a bus, a dog, a truck, a camera, a chair,” Lewis said.

“She went to see them two or three times, she asked me how I felt. A minute later she said what are the things I asked you to remember and I got two.

“A while later she said do you remember what they were and I think I said bus.”

The diagnosis comes as a shock to his fans and football fanatics, who still follow Lewis’s work as a beloved sports commentator and media personality.

In a playing career that spanned three decades, Lewis cemented his reputation in the brutal sport and was named an Immortal – the code’s highest honor.

Wally Lewis is pictured with his three children (left, Lincoln Lewis, second left, water polo star Jamie-Lee Lewis and right, Mitchell Lewis) and former partner Jacqui

Wally Lewis is pictured with his three children (left, Lincoln Lewis, second left, water polo star Jamie-Lee Lewis and right, Mitchell Lewis) and former partner Jacqui

Wally Lewis (left) revealed he had been diagnosed with probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy.  His girlfriend Linda Adams (right) said she knew something was wrong when the footy legend told the same story three times in less than 10 minutes

Wally Lewis (left) revealed he had been diagnosed with probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy. His girlfriend Linda Adams (right) said she knew something was wrong when the footy legend told the same story three times in less than 10 minutes

He captained Australia and inspired Queensland – winning a record eight man-of-the-match awards during his career in the home state.

He then became a sports commentator and in 2006 suffered an epileptic seizure while reading the sports bulletin during a live broadcast for 9News. In 2007, surgeons removed part of his brain to help control the seizures.

However, leading neurologist Dr Mobbs said the deterioration in Lewis’s brain is evident when comparing his scans to those of a healthy brain.

“He had the most exquisite coordination I’ve ever seen in anyone, but when I got to test his brain he didn’t, he didn’t even come back to normal,” said Dr Mobbs.

“There are spaces filled with fluid in Wally’s brain rather than filled with this brain tissue itself, we would like to see it much more complete.

“We know there is progressive brain shrinkage…and that raises suspicion for CTE.”

The deterioration of Lewis's brain is evident when comparing his scans to those of a healthy brain (pictured)

The deterioration of Lewis’s brain is evident when comparing his scans to those of a healthy brain (pictured)

Ms Adams was by his side throughout the devastating ordeal

Ms Adams was by his side throughout the devastating ordeal

Lewis said athletes believe they have to prove how strong they are by playing through injuries.

But he now believes he is strong in asking for help and acknowledging that something is wrong.

“For a lot of sports people, I think most of us believe that we have to prove how strong we are… how tough we are,” Lewis said.

“But we have to own it and admit that the problems are there.”

Lewis added that he keeps a meticulously detailed diary, which he calls his “best friend”, to help him navigate each day.

“I rely on that, I actually call him my best friend, I carry him everywhere,” Lewis said.

“People wonder why I carry a diary with me and I tell them I don’t want to miss anything.”

CTE is a progressive and fatal form of dementia caused by repeated blows to the head.  The diagnosis comes as a shock to his fans and football fanatics (Maroons' Patrick Carrigan with Wally Lewis in Game 3 of State of Origin 2023)

CTE is a progressive and fatal form of dementia caused by repeated blows to the head. The diagnosis comes as a shock to his fans and football fanatics (Maroons’ Patrick Carrigan with Wally Lewis in Game 3 of State of Origin 2023)

When asked if he would go “that strong” if he could relive his football career, Lewis offered a surprising answer.

‘Would I change anything? No, I wouldn’t,” Lewis said.

“I loved the game I played. I felt privileged to have played it and to have had this chance.

Lewis made the decision to donate his brain to science for research and hopes that sharing his story will create greater awareness of CTE and its effects.

The Wally Lewis statue is seen outside Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia

The Wally Lewis statue is seen outside Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia

Wally Lewis: a rugby league icon

Born: December 1, 1959

Nickname: The king

Playing career (1978-1992): Brisbane Valleys, Wakefield Trinity, Wynumm Manly, Brisbane Broncos, Gold Coast Seagulls

State of origin: (with Queensland) 31 appearances between 1980 and 1991

Kangaroo caps: 34 appearances between 1981 and 1991

Named Immortal: 1999

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