Early signs of motor neurone disease as rugby star Ed Slater receives shock diagnosis

Gloucester Rugby star Ed Slater has announced his immediate retirement from the sport after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease at just 33.

His club confirmed the heartbreaking news of his diagnosis and retirement with a statement, which read: “Gloucester Rugby is deeply pained to announce that Ed Slater has been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

“Following six months of testing, Ed’s diagnosis was confirmed last week and as a result, with the support of his family, friends and Gloucester Rugby, he has made the difficult decision to retire from professional rugby with immediate effect.”

Here’s what you need to know about motor neurone disease including early signs to spot and when to consult a doctor about symptoms.

What is motor neurone disease?

Motor neurone disease (MND) is a degenerative condition affecting nerves in the brain and spinal cord.

It is an uncommon condition, causing weakness that gets worse over time, according to the NHS site.

The disease significantly shortens life expectancy, eventually leading to death. However, some people live with the condition for many years.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for MND, but there are treatments available to reduce the impact of symptoms on a person’s daily life.

Signs of motor neurone disease

According to the NHS, early signs of motor neurone disease can include:

weakness in ankle or leg – you might trip, or find it harder to climb stairs
slurred speech, which may develop into difficulty swallowing some foods
a weak grip – tendency to drop things, or difficulty in opening jars or doing up buttons
muscle cramps and twitches
weight loss – arms or leg muscles may become thinner over time
difficulty stopping yourself from crying or laughing in inappropriate situations

The symptoms of motor neurone disease tend to happen gradually and may not be obvious at first. However, it gets worse over time.

Things like moving around, swallowing and breathing become increasingly difficult. Though the condition is incurable and degenerative, how long it takes a person to reach the final stages varies.

Some people live for many years or even decades with motor neurone disease.

When to see a GP about MND
If you are experiencing any early symptoms of motor neurone disease such as muscle weakness, it’s best to consult your GP as early as possible.

Even if it’s unlikely you have motor neurone disease, getting a correct diagnosis early can help you get the care and support you need.

You should also see a GP if you have a close relative with MND or other conditions like frontotemporal dementia.