SIR Roger Bannister’s revelation that he has Parkinson’s disease is likely to lead to a surge in people checking whether they have symptoms, according to campaigners.
The Oxford Mail yesterday reported that the sporting icon, who was the first person to break the four-minute mile barrier, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s three years ago.
Sir Roger, a retired neurologist, was praised for admitting he had the disease just days before the 60th anniversary of his legendary achievement.
Parkinson’s UK spokeswoman Nikki Nagler said: “When a public figure like Sir Roger or comedian Billy Connolly are diagnosed, we do see an increase in people trying to find out more information about the disease.
“In Sir Roger’s case, because he is in the very early stages of the disease, we would expect to see a lot more traffic to our website finding out about early symptoms.”
Ms Nagler said that it may not necessarily result in more people being diagnosed with the condition, but would educate the public on the realities of the disease.
Sir Roger, 85, said it was affecting his ability to walk.
Ms Nagler said: “Most people associate Parkinson’s with a tremor, which we are keen to emphasise is not the only symptom and that there are others which are particularly challenging. We are trying to get across that Parkinson’s is so much more than just ‘the shakes’. By going public with his diagnosis, Sir Roger is really helping to increase that basic level of understanding.”
The charity’s chief executive Steve Ford said: “An inspiration to so many, Sir Roger is a much-loved sporting legend and we are saddened to hear that he is being treated for Parkinson’s.
“It remains a little understood condition and we applaud Sir Roger and his decision to speak publicly about his diagnosis at this stage in his long life.
“There are 127,000 people in the UK who, like Sir Roger, are living with Parkinson’s.
“Many people, with the right medication, continue to live a full and active life with Parkinson’s, but for some, it can be life changing and we hope that Sir Roger gets the support he needs to continue to live with this complex condition.
“We wish Sir Roger and his family all the best.”
Martin Tims is a committee member for the Oxford branch of Parkinson’s UK, and was diagnosed with the condition 15 years ago.
He said: “We have a very active branch in Oxford and Sir Roger is more than welcome to join us at any of our monthly meetings. There is a lot of work going on for treatments, so there is light on the horizon.”
Prof Richard Wade-Martins, who leads the Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre, said: “Here at the Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre we have one of the largest efforts underway to understand Parkinson’s and find treatments.”