British Rugby Icon Dies at 41 Due to Motor Neurone Disease

Despite his small stature, the extraordinary rugby player Rob Burrow was an eight-time Super League winner in Britain. 

His 2019 diagnosis of motor neuron disease catapulted him into the role of motivational awareness campaigner. Regrettably, he died on Sunday at the age of 41.

Burrow had a 17-year professional rugby league career with Britain’s Leeds Rhinos, and they confirmed his death. 

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (A.L.S.), more often known as Lou Gehrig’s illness, was one of the neurological ailments that ultimately claimed his life.

British media gave Burrow endearing nicknames like “Mighty Atom” and “Pocket Rocket” because he outperformed expectations despite being undersized and underweight. Burrow was 5’ 5”.

Just two years after retiring in 2017, at the age of 37, he suffered a neurological illness that completely sapped his athletic ability.

Despite battling a crippling disease that makes eating and breathing nearly impossible, Burrow teamed up with his close friend and former teammate Kevin Sinfield to raise millions of dollars for research into muscular dystrophy and to help those affected by the disease. As a result of their work, a care facility was even set up in Leeds, a city in northern England.

Though he courageously battled motor neuron disease (MND) himself, Burrow was recognized for his dogged pursuit of donations and awareness for the condition.

An MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) was bestowed upon Burrow, a distinguished rugby league player, in the 2021 New Year Honours for his remarkable achievements in the sport and his influential work within the MND community.

In the 2024 New Year Honours, Burrow and his close friend Sinfield were both given CBEs (Commanders of the British Empire.)

After Burrow’s diagnosis, they have combined to raise more than £15 million for charities that assist motor neuron disease.

He is survived by his wife and three children -Jackson, Maya, and Macy. He and his wife, Lindsey, were married in 2006.