Rugby

Joost has debilitating illness

2011-05-12 19:33
Joost van der Westhuizen (File)
Brenden Nel - SuperSport

Johannesburg - Former Springbok rugby captain Joost van der Westhuizen is fighting for his health after being diagnosed with a motor-neuron muscle disease.

GALLERY: Joost van der Westhuizen through the years

Health24: What is motor neuron disease?

The disease, which is apparently similar to the one that put one of his team-mates, Springbok flank André Venter in a wheelchair a few years ago, has been diagnosed as very serious and could have drastic implications for his health.

Van der Westhuizen, who led the Blue Bulls to Currie Cup victories in 1998 and 2002, and who is one of the most capped Springbok rugby players in the nation's history, complained to his personal doctor, Dr Henry Kelbrick, of pain in his arm and was immediately sent for a battery of tests to diagnose the outcome.

Once the diagnosis was made, the seriousness of the matter prompted Dr Kelbrick to send Van der Westhuizen to see two neurologists so that treatment could begin.

While neither Van der Westhuizen nor his immediate family have been available to comment, sources close to the player tell SuperSport.com that the disease is "very serious" and could have massive implications for his future.

"Sports personality Joost van der Westhuizen, has been diagnosed with a serious muscle-related motor neuron disease . Van der Westhuizen's doctor, Dr Kelbrick who is also a close family friend noticed that Joost was having problems with his right arm and ran a series of tests, van der Westhuizen also consulted two neurologists and has began immediate treatment. The symptoms are serious and vary from person to person," a statement from Van der Westhuizen's publicist, Bridget van Oerle said.

"The press is requested to respect his privacy at this time and note that neither he nor his family will be available for interviews."

Van der Westhuizen captained the Springboks to the semi-finals of the 1999 World Cup and was part of the 1995 World Cup winning squad. He was also a member of the 2003 World Cup squad which performed badly, being ousted in the quarter-finals of the tournament.

After that, Van der Westhuizen worked as a commentator for SuperSport for a number of years. He was most recently in the news for a series of personal scandals which saw the end of his marriage to singer and television personality Amor Vittone.

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