Ed Slater: who is rugby player diagnosed with MND?

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Gloucester rugby union player Ed Slater announced his retirement from the sport yesterday.

The 33-year-old has retired from professional rugby with immediate effect and the Scarlets, Leinster, Saracens, Harlequins, Munster and Ulster are just some of the clubs who have since sent messages of support to Slater.

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His current club Gloucester announced the news in a statement yesterday afternoon.

The statement read: “Gloucester Rugby is deeply saddened to announce that Ed Slater has been diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (MND).

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“After 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.

“Everyone at Gloucester Rugby – players, management and staff – is fully committed to supporting Ed, his wife Jo and their three children in any way that is required. We know this will also apply to Gloucester and Leicester supporters and the wider rugby community.

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“While Ed, his family and the club take time to determine next steps, Gloucester Rugby has launched a JustGiving page. The direction of these funds will be determined in due course, whether to support Ed and his family directly and/or a select MND charity.”

Who is Ed Slater?

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Born in Leicester in 1988, Ed Slater started his rugby career with Milton Keynes RUFC before moving to Australia.

He joined Eastern Suburbs RUFC in New South Wales aged 19 and really started to improve in Australia before returning to his home country with Nottingham.

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Slater’s impressive performances in the Championship playoffs earned him a move back to Leicester with the Tigers in 2010.

Slater developed into a brilliant player in his hometown, helping the Tigers to the Aviva Premiership final in 2011 and earning a Premiership winners’ medal in the 2012/13 season. He then became the team’s captain between 2014 and 2016.

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He then joined Gloucester in 2017 where he played 90 games before being forced to retire.

Slater also played four times for the England Saxons.

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What is the connection between rugby and MND?

Slater’s announcement comes five years after Scottish rugby legend Doddie Weir revealed he had MND, while former Leeds Rhinos star Rob Burrow was diagnosed with the same condition in 2019.

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Slater’s message has prompted calls for rugby authorities to commission urgent investigations into a possible link between rugby and MND due to the rising number of players diagnosed with the disease.

However, research has yet to be examined directly on MND in the context of rugby.

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My Name’5 Doddie Foundation

Founded by Doddie Weir after his diagnosis, the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation aims to help those affected and find ways to advance research into the terminal illness.

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The foundation has already raised millions for more MND research, but after Slater’s announcement, they shared their continued concerns.

A statement from the foundation said: “The My Name’5 Doddie Foundation also recognizes the increasing attention to possible links between head injuries and neurological diseases, but there is not enough definitive research at this time to draw any conclusions about possible links to motor neuron diseases .

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“While the evidence for an association between head trauma and dementia appears to be gaining momentum, this cannot be implied for MND; These diseases have different causes and underlying factors.

“MND is a complex disease and while we now have a much better understanding of the genetics involved, the link between genes, environmental and lifestyle factors is not well understood. Further research is crucial to uncover these details.”

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