/ by Cleo Maritz / 0 comment(s)
Exploring the Symptoms and Potential Link Between Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and Contact Sports

Understanding Motor Neurone Disease (MND)

Motor neurone disease, commonly abbreviated as MND, is a debilitating and fast-progressing neurological disorder that primarily affects the brain and nerves. The disease is known for its severe impact on a person’s motor functions and, ultimately, their quality of life. However, what exactly is this confounding disease, and how does it progress over time?

MND strikes by attacking the motor neurons, the nerve cells that control voluntary muscle activities such as walking, speaking, breathing, and swallowing. Initially, the symptoms may be subtle, manifesting as muscle weakness in the hands, feet, or even the voice. One might struggle with slurred speech, experience a weakening grip, or muscle cramps and twitches. These early signs often pave the way to more profound physical challenges, rendering the sufferer progressively weaker to the point of losing almost all movement, and facing considerable difficulty in talking, breathing, and swallowing.

Rob Burrow and His Battle With MND

Former England and Leeds Rhinos rugby league star Rob Burrow is a notable name associated with MND. Diagnosed in 2019, Rob embodied courage as he publicly shared his ordeal with this harrowing disease. His diagnosis at the age of 37, and his subsequent passing at the age of 41, shone a stark light on the realities of living with MND and spurred increased awareness and research into the disease.

The Symptoms and Stages of MND

The onset of MND can be slow and elusive. Muscle weakness can appear in a localized area like the hands or feet, or even in the muscles responsible for speech production. As muscles weaken and atrophy, affected individuals may notice difficulty performing everyday tasks such as buttoning a shirt, holding objects, or even maintaining a stable gait.

As MND advances, the symptoms become increasingly debilitating. People with MND might experience compounded muscular issues, leading to immobility. Difficulty in speaking evolves into slurred or nasal speech, and swallowing becomes challenging, increasing the risk of choking. Respiratory muscles weaken over time, necessitating the use of ventilators to assist with breathing. The disease does not generally affect cognitive functions; the afflicted remain acutely aware of their declining physical capabilities.

Treatment: Managing, Not Curing

Treatment: Managing, Not Curing

Sadly, as of now, there is no cure for MND. However, there are treatments and therapies aimed at managing symptoms and improving the affected individual's quality of life. Treatments might include physiotherapy to maintain muscle strength, speech therapy for communication challenges, and medications to manage symptoms like muscle stiffness and pain.

Life Expectancy and Living with MND

The life expectancy post-diagnosis of MND can range significantly, typically from one to five years. Yet, this spectrum can extend well beyond this, with approximately 10 per cent of patients living for ten years or more. This variance underscores the unpredictable nature of the disease and emphasizes the importance of individualized care plans.

Research and the Possible Link to Contact Sports

The potential link between MND and contact sports is increasingly being scrutinized, given the growing list of high-profile athletes diagnosed with the disease. A notable study conducted in 2022 at the University of Glasgow highlighted a staggering statistic: former Scottish international rugby players were found to be 15 times more likely to develop MND compared to the general population. This pose an equivocal question: could the repeated physical trauma inherent in contact sports predispose players to this neurological malady?

While the study suggested a possible correlation, it stopped short of establishing a definitive causative relationship. More extensive research is needed to explore how, if at all, the physical impacts and recurrent head traumas associated with contact sports might contribute to the development of MND.

Growing Awareness and Public Efforts

Growing Awareness and Public Efforts

Raising awareness of MND is as crucial as the need for research funding. Various public initiatives and events have been established to bring attention to this relentless disease. In Australia, the FightMND organization hosts the Big Freeze event at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, an annual affair intended to both fundraise and spotlight the disease. Events like these play a pivotal role in cultivating public understanding and supporting ongoing research efforts.

The Need for Urgent and Ongoing Research

Recognizing the severity and impact of MND on patients and their families is just the beginning. With increasing awareness and continued research, it is hoped that advancements in both diagnosis and treatment can radically improve the lives of those stricken by this disease. The medical community, athletes, and the general public await breakthroughs that could one day lead to preventive measures or perhaps even a cure.

In the meantime, stories like Rob Burrow’s serve not just as reminders of the human cost of MND, but also as beacons calling us to further action and deeper compassion. The fight against MND is far from over, and sustained efforts across all fronts are essential to outpace this devastating disease.

Write a comment