"Scary revelations" - Research shows Motor Neuron Disease linked to rugby - Ruck

“Scary revelations” – Research shows Motor Neuron Disease linked to rugby

A study shows people playing top-level contact sport are eight-and-a-half times more likely to develop motor neuron disease.

Gloucester second-row Ed Slater is the latest player to be diagnosed with disease, retiring from the sport with immediate effect aged 33.

Former Scotland and British & Irish Lions forward Doddie Weir and rugby league legend Rob Burrow are also fighting the crippling disease.

According to the DailyMail, the study – done by a group of scientists from various medical establishments worldwide – is the most definitive investigation of its kind ever undertaken and has concluded that the risks of developing MND are more than eight times higher among those who sustain repeated blows to the head and spine in top-level sport.

‘As far as we can see, there is a link,’ said consultant spine surgeon Mike Hutton, who is one of the study’s lead researchers.

‘The results of our review found that the risk of developing ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis as MND is also known, was eight times more common in professional athletes prone to concussive or neck trauma. It was a figure that shocked us all.’

World Rugby, the Doddie Weir Foundation as well as the FA (English Football Association) welcomed the research findings.

‘While this study is a review of published research over a number of years and therefore not qualitative or rugby specific, we welcome its publication and insights. It does not address the actual risk, only a relative risk, while no rugby studies were included in the study. The key is further research,’ a World Rugby spokesperson said.


Six rugby stars diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease

This is a list of notable people who have or had motor neuron disease, a group of rare neurodegenerative disorders that selectively affect motor neurons, the cells which control voluntary muscles of the body. 

#1. Rob Burrow – England

On 19 December 2019, it was publicly revealed Burrow had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

On 30 December 2020, Burrow was appointed MBE in the 2021 New Years Honours List for his services to Rugby League and the Motor Neurone Disease community.

On 16 March 2021, Burrow was awarded the Honorary degree of Doctor of Sport Science by Leeds Beckett University.

#2. Doddie Weir – Scotland

n June 2017, Weir announced that he had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND), the announcement coinciding with global MND Awareness Day. In August, he spoke about plans to set up a foundation named ‘My Name’s Doddie’ in order to “raise funds for research into a cure for MND and to provide grants to people living with the condition”. In November, accompanied by his three sons, he walked the match ball on to the pitch at Murrayfield for the Autumn international test match between Scotland and the All Blacks.

A tartan was designed by Weir in collaboration with Berwickshire-based clothes firm ScotlandShop, in a bid to raise cash for his motor neurone disease research charity. The tartan features colours from the teams he played for: black and yellow of Melrose, blue and white of Scotland, and black of the former and white of the latter are also intended as a reference to his seven years with Newcastle Falcons. My Name’s Doddie: The Autobiography was published on 25 October 2018 through Black & White Publishing.

On 31 October 2018, Weir appeared on BBC One’s The One Show, where he stated that his charity had now raised over £1 million.

In January 2020 Weir confirmed his involvement in a clinical trial aimed at finding drugs that could slow, stop or reverse the progression of MND.