It's MS Week from 27th April to 3rd May. It's an opportunity to try and raise awareness about a condition that affects some 85,000 people in this country and about which there are many misconceptions.
Multiple Sclerosis can affect anyone, and international standard footballers are no different in this respect to distinctly average 5-a-side trundlers like me. One player affected will be familiar to many football fans of a certain age, and he is one who had his career at the highest level cruelly cut short by this presently incurable condition: Danny Wallace:
Danny was in his 20’s and at the top of his game playing professional football for Manchester United when he first starting experiencing symptoms that would eventually lead to a diagnosis of MS.
He was unable to bounce back from injury and was spending an increasing amount of time in the treatment rooms.
“At first I thought it was the usual injuries that all professional footballers got, but after a while things didn’t seem right,” he explains.
The turning point for Danny was in 1993 when he signed for Birmingham City. He began to feel pins and needles in his legs and feet and would feel incredibly tired after games. It was the smaller symptoms of the condition that had a major effect on his every day life.
“I would get frustrated that my feet were numb or I had pins and needles in my legs, I just wanted to play football. I couldn’t understand what the problem was.”
After deciding to retire from professional football in 1995, Danny went to speak to a financial advisor about his pension. He was sent for medical tests which diagnosed him with having multiple sclerosis - a condition of the central nervous system which causes the body’s immune system to attack myelin, a substance surrounding nerve fibres, causing confusion and delay in messages from the brain and spine.
MS can cause a variety of symptoms including loss of balance and mobility, extreme fatigue, depression and mood swings. There is currently no cure and few effective treatments, but with the right support and information people can continue their lives.
Now, almost 12 years since his diagnosis, Danny, age 45, has stepped forward to be one of the faces in the MS Society’s new campaign to raise awareness of the condition.
“Since being diagnosed I’ve spent much of my time raising money for others affected by MS and I was happy to take part in the campaign. It’s important to help others understand what the condition is,” he said.
“When I was first diagnosed I kept my condition quiet and only told close family and friends. I found it embarrassing and I couldn’t come to terms with it. Five years after my diagnosis I was able to come out and tell people.”
Unfortunately for Danny, his MS stopped his career as a professional footballer reaching its full potential.
“I would have definitely got more opportunities had I been fit while I was at Manchester United – I couldn’t play as many games as I wanted to and that had a negative affect on my career for sure.”
Now Danny is retired he helps raise money and awareness for MS, along with looking after the family home and his children. His symptoms include fatigue, pins and needles in his legs, problems with walking and regular back spasms, especially in the morning.
“I take regular medication, which helps, but walking is always a problem. I’ve even been out with friends in a social situation and people have presumed I was drunk. I might have had a few drinks but I certainly wasn’t drunk. It made me feel disappointed in people – that they could just presume that that’s the case, but I suppose they weren’t to know.”
Apologies for hijacking CUAS for this public service broadcast. Normal service can now be resumed.