Kevin Sinfield has called on the Government to invest more money into motor neurone disease research.
The former Leeds Rhinos star is preparing to run in Sunday’s London Marathon and is doing so to raise money for a cause that means a lot to him.
He is raising money for the MND Association after his close friend and former Leeds teammate Rob Burrow was diagnosed with the condition almost two years ago.
Burrow was diagnosed with the disease in December 2019, and he was part of a group which visited Downing Street last week as they campaigned for greater Government funding – £50million – to be invested into research.
Sinfield understands it will take a large sum of public money to make the real difference, but referred to the successful development of an effective Covid vaccine as an example of how the right investment can reap impressive rewards.
“In the last 30 years it's been massively underfunded and it's been almost left,” Sinfield said. “A lot of people have fought and suffered and struggled, but over that time they have had no hope.
“For all of us that have been involved, we want to give that hope to Rob and to everybody else across the UK and worldwide at the minute who's suffering.
“It is a lot of money that was asked of the Government recently, but it's needed – this is a terrible disease.
"What we have seen over the last 18, 20 months since Covid first struck, how quickly we found a vaccine. If you throw enough money at something, there are a lot of great minds and smart minds out there who have come up with something.
“The only way you can get that is by raising funds and by putting an amount of cash towards that research.”
He vowed to keep to campaigning for the necessary investment: “We'll continue to do what we do, but as you can see, with something that's been so underfunded for the last 30 years, we're just scratching the surface, and people don't have that time.”
The MND Association began a campaign named Unite to End MND, and neurologists involved believe the major aspects of the disease are understood. The next step, therefore, is to target the pathways with specific drugs that have passed clinical trials.
Sinfield, now the Leicester Tigers defence coach, ran seven marathons in seven days for the MND Association last year and has raised an incredible £2.2million for the charity.
Despite being busy with work, Sinfield insists he still calls Burrow every three weeks at most – and texts him on a weekly basis.
“The sad thing is that I can't pick up the phone and just speak to him anymore," Sinfield said.
“That form of communication has gone, so you try and make the best of it – but every time I do see him he's got a big smile on his face.
“He has always been a fighter – he's always been inspiring because of the size he was playing such an aggressive, physical sport.
“When I see how brave he has been, how brave his wife Lindsey has been, the kids and his mum and dad, they have opened up and tried to show people that for families affected by MND you don't have to be ashamed, you don't need to be embarrassed and you don't have to hide away.
“They're highlighting that this is a disease where people need help and support.
“He thinks it's hilarious that we're all running about after him. I absolutely know he'd do it for us and I am absolutely proud to wear the vest.”
The 2021 London Marathon will take place on Sunday October 3.
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