The high-speed stunt involved driving a Vampire jet car at a speed of 320mph. Tragically, the stunt went awry when one of the tyres burst, causing the car to lose control, flip upside down and crash, leaving Hammond in a coma.
Now 53, Hammond has opened up about the traumatic incident and its long-lasting effects on his health. In an interview on the Diary of a CEO podcast, he revealed that he fears he may have developed dementia as a result of the frontal lobe brain injury he sustained during the accident. The injury, which left him in a coma, has had a profound impact on his life, and he continues to suffer from the after-effects of the crash.
“I worry about my memory because it’s not brilliant. I can still read a script and deliver it but my long-term memory is not brilliant.
“I have to write things down and work hard to remember them sometimes. It might be the age, it might be the onset of something else, I worry about that. I do, I do.
“I should probably have a look and find out, because I do.”
Podcast host Steven Bartlett asked the Grand Tour host if he is scared of finding out. He responded:
“I am because it was a bleed on the front. It could mean there is an increased risk. I need to find out. I’ve been too scared to do it. I need to do it.
“Weirdly on the way here, I had to stop off for a medical for a production. They ask ‘Have you been involved in any accidents?’ I’m like ‘Woooah! Can I have another piece of paper please?’
“I need to book myself in for one of those mid-life MOTs and check everything. I wanted to ask them to check there is nothing going awry up here [pointing to his head]. But I chickened out.
“That means I probably need an MRI scan but at 53, your memory does start to get a bit… they call it lost key syndrome.
“I am quite forgetful, generally thinking about something else, the next thing and therefore I do drop the ball, I forget stuff a lot. That’s just me. That’s who I am.”
Following his near-death experience in the car crash, Richard Hammond has been open about his struggles with mental health. The traumatic incident left him battling depression, which he has described as a serious and debilitating condition.
“I have no recollection because there was the frontal lobe bleed. I was just decelerating upside down, using my head as a brake, which isn’t good for you.”
“Mindy. [his wife], was told by the doctors that a frontal brain lobe injury would possibly lead to me having a greater propensity for obsessive compulsion and depression and paranoia.
“Mindy was like, ‘You didn’t meet him before the crash, did you?’ which is quite funny to be fair. I think I did suffer a bit, I suffered all of those things to a degree.
“Some of them were really weird moments and I still get an echo of it. I remember having been institutionalised for a really long time in hospitals and in recovery… I would be coming into London to do something.
“I would open the wardrobe door and just look at all the shirts and just trying to work out.. it was too much. I found choice really difficult for quite a long time.’
“Feeling your emotions derailed or interfered with because of a neurochemical imbalance, it’s just chemicals and electricity.
“I was walking across the drive of my house and I felt this sudden welling, this surge of love in my chest and I thought, what’s that?
Eventually I identified it, I had walked past my old Land Rover, which I do love but only because I quite like it, but it had just triggered this absolutely… I thought blimey, it made me think.
“If emotions can be that profoundly affected by what was just a mix-up up of chemicals and electricity in my head, then I am more aware of things.”
Repeated hits to the head can result in chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative brain disease that has been linked to contact sports such as American football, rugby, and boxing.
The condition develops over time and can cause a range of symptoms, including confusion, depression, dementia, explosiveness, aggression, and even suicidal thoughts. The long-term effects of CTE are a major concern for athletes and sports organisations, and there is growing recognition of the need for preventative measures to protect players from the risk of serious brain injury.
“Now, I don’t listen to my emotions too closely if I am very very tired or if I have had a big night out with the boys the night before.
“I was angry for a while, Anger is a problem when recovering from a brain injury. I wanted a T-shirt that said on the front, ‘I am OK, stop asking’ and on the back, ‘I am still poorly, you know.'”