Weir refuse to blame rugby for motor neurone disease
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Motor Neuron Disease became synonymous with rugby after the Springbok legend Joost van der Westhuizen lost his six-year battle to the disease in February.
After Van der Westhuizen's passing most people believed that rugby was one of MND biggest causes.
Many went onto to explain the relentless knocks sustained during a rugby career just trigger the disease more.
MND describes a group of diseases that affect the nerves in the brain and spinal cord that tell your muscles what to do. Gradually the messages from these nerves stop reaching the muscles, leading them to weaken, stiffen and waste.
Former Scotland international Doddie Weir is the second well-known international rugby star to suffer from the condition.
In June, Weir revealed that he was suffering from MND after first noticing the symptoms 18 months before when he trapped his hand in a door on his farm.
However, as the knowledge of the disease advance, Weir insists he places no blame on rugby for the disease and sees no connection.
He explained that there are more than 450 people in Scotland who are living with the conditions, who never played rugby.
"I asked the question to my professor and there’s no profound knowledge to say that rugby was involved in my condition," the 47-year-old told the BBC.
"Yeah [I got head knocks], I think you always do in the way that we played, definitely, not often concussed but certainly a few bangs on the head.
"But there’s maybe 450 to 500 sufferers of MND in Scotland – and quite a large majority probably wouldn’t have played rugby.
"I don’t think there’s any connection to it at the moment but the reason behind that is that there’s maybe not a lot of studies put together, not a lot of work or focus put on MND at the moment in the world, so hopefully we can try and change that and try to find the solution,"
Weir has set up the Doddie Weir’5 Discretionary Trust to help with research and supporting fellow sufferers, having taken inspiration from the work Van der Westhuizen did before his death.
"He [Van der Westhuizen] probably brought me on to understand what it was all about," added Weir.
"I met him at Murrayfield a number of years ago. A very inspirational character.
"So with his J9 Foundation, it was really the first port of call that I was going to do, to see what he’s done before – because there’s a frustrating part with MND and that’s the solution. That’s not been found yet. It’s a terminal illness and that’s quite hard to take,"
Despite his condition, Weir remains upbeat and hopes to help find a cure for MND.
"I’m very lucky in some ways because it’s directly started with my hands," he said.
"With other people, it can start with their voice, their eating or their legs, so in a way, I can still do everything, although maybe a bit slower than what they used to be.
"The reaction of everyone – rugby players especially – the support’s been unbelievable, very humbling.
"Now the focus is about driving to secure a resolution. I’ve got to try and make a difference,"
Photo credit: @DW5Trust