Rugby star joins EMC scientists in bid to tackle motor neurone disease

A World Cup-winning rugby star is joining forces with researchers at the Euan MacDonald Centre in a new partnership to tackle MND.

joostSouth African Joost van der Westhuizen – part of the victorious Springboks team of 1995 – has launched a collaboration with scientists from the Euan MacDonald Centre. The new partnership will see members and supporters of the player’s J9 Foundation meet EMC experts to discuss the latest developments in research. We hope that in time the collaboration will bring benefit to MND patients as knowledge and expertise are shared.

“Solving the enormous challenge of MND or ALS requires partnership and collaboration. We are delighted to work with South African colleagues and the J9 foundation to promote better understanding of this devastating disease.” Professor Siddharthan Chandran, Director of the Euan MacDonald Centre.

Joost van der Westhuizen was diagnosed with MND in 2011. When he retired from international rugby in 2003, Joost was the most capped South African player, with 89 Test caps and 38 Test tries, a record only recently broken. Following his diagnosis, the former scrum-half set up the J9 Foundation, which provides support and care to MND sufferers, their families and carers.

joost2“We are delighted to welcome Joost and the J9 Foundation delegation to Edinburgh. We are honoured that they have travelled so far to raise awareness of this condition and we look forward to developing this new partnership.” Euan MacDonald, Founder of the Euan MacDonald Centre and former rugby player.

The J9 Foundation visit to Edinburgh is part of a 10-day stay in the UK aimed at raising awareness and funds to support those affected by MND. Among the events planned is a fundraising quiz (Joost a Sports Quiz) at Murrayfield stadium, Edinburgh, tonight. Joost van der Westhuizen will also be honoured by the Scottish Rugby Union ahead of the South Africa and Scotland international on Sunday.

“This is going to be the most important tour of my life. We are not only raising awareness and funds, for the first time we are bringing international research partnerships home. In the beginning you go through all the emotions and you ask, ‘Why me?’ It’s quite simple, ‘Why not me?’ If I have to go through this to help future generations, why not me?” Joost van der Westhuizen