Three sporting heroes spoke movingly about their battle with motor neurone disease yesterday and their hopes for a cure.
Rugby league legend Rob Burrow, former footballer Stephen Darby and ex-Scotland rugby union international Doddie Weir met for the first time since February 2020.
They discussed how the incurable condition had transformed their lives and the challenges their families face.
MND causes muscles to waste away after loss of nerve cells which control movement, speech and breathe. Half of those diagnosed die within three years.
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Doddie, 50, who had a fall in March, said: “You can see within a year how brutal the disease is.
“Last year we were able to walk into the set.
“This year two of us need a bit of help. My arms don’t work and I don’t think Rob’s arms work that well either.”
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Doddie has raised millions for MND research and hopes it might slow the disease.
Ex-Liverpool and Bradford defender Stephen, 32, broke down as he told of the tough year all three endured.
He too is campaigning for greater awareness of MND, and more Government help.
Rob, 38, spoke in the BBC Breakfast interview using a voice simulator with the help of wife Lindsey, 38, a physio.
As viewers saw footage of the couple with their three young children, Rob said: “As I sit here with limited use of my legs and arms, I can’t speak, I want people to know I feel as mentally strong as ever.
“I hope to have played a role in finding a cure. I only hope it is in my lifetime.
“But I would be equally pleased if it is not, I hope that I leave a lasting impression on this horrible disease.”
“Uncle” Doddie and “brother” Stephen have checked in on the former Leeds Rhinos star since his 2019 diagnosis. Stephen spoke of the support of his wife, England captain Steph Houghton.
He said: “She has been a rock.
“Seeing how it has affected Rob and Doddie is hard.
“But you’ve got to look at positives, see what you do have, an amazing wife, family, friends, love and happiness.”
Doddie’s message was: “Live life, keep smiling and wake up every day fighting MND.”
Rob, given an MBE for services to rugby league and the 5,000 MND sufferers in the UK, added: “To be a husband and daddy – that reassures me as to why I have too many reasons to live.”
In 2019 a study found eight times the risk of developing MND for those who sustained repeated blows to the head and spine in top level sport.