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Aims to tackle awareness

Weir struck by Motor Neurone Disease

Doddie Weir

Doddie Weir: condition. (SNS Group)

Scotland rugby legend Doddie Weir is to set up a foundation to help aid research into Motor Neurone Disease after revealing he is suffering from the crippling condition.

The 61-times capped international has announced his diagnosis to raise awareness of the disease for Global MND Awareness Day.

“Over the past few months a number of friends and family have raised concerns surrounding my health,” said the 46-year-old father-of-three. “I think then, that on this day set to help raise awareness of the condition, I should confirm that I, too, have Motor Neurone Disease.

“I should like to take this opportunity to thank the National Health Service in recognising then diagnosing this, as yet, incurable disease.

“I am currently on holiday in New Zealand with Kathy and the boys and when we return, I will devote my time towards assisting research and raising awareness and funds to help support fellow sufferers.

“There are plans in place to create a charitable foundation to help in any way we can and we will share these details with you after our family trip.”

Scottish Rugby rallied round the former No. 8, saying: “All our thoughts are with Doddie and family. He represented Scotland for 10 years and we will look to support him and his charity initiative.”

The former British and Irish Lion is supporting researchers at the Euan MacDonald Centre at the University of Edinburgh in their quest to better understand the disease, in the hope that it will eventually lead to new therapies.

The centre was set up in 2007 by Donald MacDonald, a leading Scottish businessman, and his son Euan, who was diagnosed with MND in 2003. The centre supports and undertakes cutting-edge research into MND as well as training the next generation of research leaders.

Professor Siddharthan Chandran, Director of the Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research, said: “We are immensely grateful to Doddie for his support at this difficult time for him and his family.

“Working in partnership with other researchers and charities such as MND Scotland, our goal is to bring forward the day when there are effective treatments for this very tough condition.”

Weir follows in the footsteps of another rugby legend in his support for the centre, South Africa’s Joost Van Der Westhuizen having visited in 2013 to share knowledge and expertise.

Joost van der Westhuizen

Van der Westhuizen: sufferer. (SNS Group)

Rugby World Cup winner Van Der Westhuizen also had MND and passed away in February this year, six years after his diagnosis.

MND – also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease – is a progressive disease. It occurs when specialised nerve cells called motor neurons break down. These cells usually transmit messages from the brain and spinal cord to tell muscles in the body what to do.

In MND, messages from the nerves gradually stop reaching the muscles, which causes them to weaken and waste away. Eventually, this leads to paralysis and difficulties with speech, swallowing and breathing.

There are no therapies that can stop progression of MND and little is known about why the disease strikes some but not others.

Another well-known sporting star, former Rangers and Holland defender Fernando Ricksen, was diagnosed with MND in October 2013.

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