Who is Rob Burrow and when was he diagnosed with motor neurone disease?
Rob Burrow is a rugby league legend, having won it all in the domestic game with Leeds Rhinos in a 16-year professional career.
But his life changed dramatically with the onset of motor neurone disease (MND). He now uses a wheelchair and is cared for by his wife, Lindsey.
This weekend, Burrow completed the inaugural Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon, a sporting event made in his honour.
The rugby legend was carried over the finish line by his close friend and fellow rugby player Kevin Sinfield at the end of the 26.2 mile race, having got there using a specially adapted wheelchair.
Since Burrow’s diagnosis, Sinfield has raised more than £8m for people affected by MND, through sponsored running in Burrow’s honour.
Here’s all you need to know about Burrow’s backstory and his battle with MND.
Rugby League legend Rob Burrow has met the Coronation Street actors at the centre of a storyline about motor neurone disease.
As John Maguire explained on #BBCBreakfast he was joined by wife Lindsey to speak to Peter Ash and Dan Brocklebank about MNDhttps://t.co/HolBP83lNF pic.twitter.com/5oNJlHRIpD
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) April 3, 2023
Who is Rob Burrow?
The Yorkshireman, 40, played rugby league for only one club, Leeds Rhinos. From 2001 to 2017, he was often the team’s chosen scrum-half or hooker and played 493 times. He won eight Super League championships, two Challenge Cups, and was named in the Super League Dream Team three times.
Burrow also won 15 caps for England and five for Great Britain in his glittering career.
This was all achieved despite his 165cm (5ft 5in) height and 66kg (10 stone, 5lb) body frame making him unusually slight for a rugby player. He was known as the “smallest player in the Super League” for many years.
He and wife Lindsey have two daughters, Macy and Maya, and one son, Jackson.
When was Rob Burrow diagnosed with motor neurone disease?
Burrow disclosed in December 2019 that he had been diagnosed with MND.
The disease, which is also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease (nearly 90 percent of patients with MND have the mixed ALS form of the disease), affects the brain and nerves. It progressively worsens over time and there is no cure.
Early symptoms include slurred speech, weak grip, and muscle cramps. It is an uncommon condition and rarely hereditary.
The NHS says of the condition: “It's caused by a problem with cells in the brain and nerves called motor neurones. These cells gradually stop working over time. It's not known why this happens.”
It can be difficult to diagnose MND in the early stages and, while it is incurable, there are things that can be done to manage it.
“I expected to be told I had something that could be treated and move on,” Burrow told the BBC at the time of his diagnosis.
“It was a bit of a shock when the doctor told me I had something which has no cure.
“Apart from my voice and a few bits and bobs, I feel normal and good to go.”
Today has been a big day for me and my family but I would like you all to know I have read every message and post. I can’t explain how overwhelmed I am at the reaction I have had from people throughout our amazing sport.
Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart!
— Rob Burrow MBE (@Rob7Burrow) December 19, 2019
Burrow, who in December 2020 was made an MBE in the 2021 New Year Honours List for his services to rugby league and the motor neurone disease community, added: “The hardest bit is that you do not know why you have it and there is nothing you can do.
“Maybe it's the athlete in us all, we don't want to lie down and just take it, we want to compete.”
Burrow’s condition has worsened considerably. As well as being in a wheelchair, he speaks through a machine similar to the one used by the late renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, who also had MND.
Fellow Leeds Rhinos legend Kevin Sinfield has supported his friend by undertaking various challenges in aid of MND charities. For instance, in November 2022, Sinfield ran seven ultra-marathons in seven days.
Sinfield said: “Throughout his career, Rob overcame the odds to become a legend of the game and I know he will tackle this challenge with the exact same positive determination.
“As a club, Rob will receive our full support and we will be working with him to chart the way forward.”