'I’m a prisoner in my own body', reveals former rugby star and MND sufferer Rob Burrow

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Rob Burrow: Living with MND (BBC Two, 7pm)

The former Rugby League star Rob Burrow was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease less than two years after he helped his side, Leeds Rhinos, to a record-lengthening eighth Super League grand final in 2017.

The degenerative disease, for which there exists no cure, can strike anyone at any time – and for Burrow, a professional athlete at the peak of his fitness, it presented a set of challenges unlike anything he encountered during his career. Yet he approached his condition with the determination he learned on the pitch.

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By the time he was diagnosed in 2019, Burrow was being hailed as one of Rugby League’s greatest-ever players.

Then, suddenly, he was being told he had a year, or maybe two at most, left to live.

He would soon get a harsh lesson in MND and the mental and physical toll it can take on a person. It would be in stark contrast to the life of fitness and elite activity to which he was used.

However, his story is one of courage and never giving up.

During the documentary, Rob Burrow says: “I’m a prisoner in my own body, that’s the way MND gets you, the lights are on, but no one’s home. I think like you, but my mind doesn’t work right. I can’t move my body.”

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He also states throughout the film that he’s “not giving in, right until [his] last breath,” as he has “too many reasons to live”.

Now, as he passes his two-year life expectancy, he allows us into his life to show how, with the support of friends, family, the wider Rugby League community and of course the NHS, he is making the most of his life.

This documentary follows My Year with MND, shown in October 2020, as well his regular appearances on BBC Breakfast during which he updated viewers and his fans on his progress.

This was shot primarily by Rob and his family in lockdown during the height of the Covid 19 pandemic.

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Sally Nugent, the BBC Breakfast presenter who has become friends with the Burrow family, comments: “This film shares the brutal reality of living with motor neurone disease, not just for Rob, but the impact it has on his whole family and friends.

"What he is doing will have a lasting legacy for people diagnosed today and in years to come.

“The documentary is an unflinching look at life through Rob’s eyes.

"We see him fight daily for small victories that we might take for granted everyday. Every breath is a battle. Every moment with his family is a win for them all. But he is as funny today as he was the first day I met him, when he was just one of the greatest rugby league players of all time.He is still that, and so much more.”

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Rob with wife Lindsey. The pair share three children Maya, Macy and JacksonRob with wife Lindsey. The pair share three children Maya, Macy and Jackson
Rob with wife Lindsey. The pair share three children Maya, Macy and Jackson

In one intimate scene, Lindsey is shown carrying her husband up the stairs at night - but viewers will also see cheekier moments from Rob - for example when he tells his mother Irene she 'has a gob on her'.