Speech apraxia: what is condition, what has Chris Kamara said about diagnosis, is he in New Year’s Honour list?

Chris Kamara revealed on Twitter that he has developed speech apraxia (Photo: PA)Chris Kamara revealed on Twitter that he has developed speech apraxia (Photo: PA)
Chris Kamara revealed on Twitter that he has developed speech apraxia (Photo: PA) | PA
Former footballer Chris Kamara’s speech apraxia condition was previously diagnosed with an underactive thyroid

Former Sky Sports pundit Chris Kamara has spoken out about his apraxia of speech condition.

In March 2022, the presenter and former footballer revealed on Twitter he had developed apraxia of speech, after viewers grew concerned about the 64-year-old when he appeared to slur his words during an appearance on Soccer Saturday.

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Kamara said it was “difficult” to accept his diagnosis of apraxia and talk about it openly, alongside an existing thyroid issue. The 64-year-old said he knew “something wasn’t right” in 2019 but told “no-one” and decided to speak in “sound bites” to mask his condition.

Speaking about his apraxia, Kamara said: “We take for granted when we speak, it’s natural, but the message from (my) brain somehow gets confused and the words come out wrong, or they come out slow, or they don’t come out at all. My voice was my life so that was hard to accept. That’s why I kept it quiet, I thought there’s no way I can tell anybody.”

Kamara will feature alongside his friend and fellow TV presenter Ben Shephard in an ITV documentary Lost For Words, as the former footballer seeks advice from experts and meets others suffering from apraxia of speech. The documentary will air at 9pm on Wednesday 14 December on ITV and ITVX.

This is everything you need to know about the condition apraxia of speech.

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What did Chris Kamara say on Twitter?

After appearing on Soccer Saturday, the Sky Sports presenter sparked concern amongst viewers after he appeared to slur his words while on screen, prompting fans to reach out to him online.

Kamara wrote: “Just wanted to let a few of you know who tweeted me today that I am ok ish. Alongside my Thyroid problem I have developed Apraxia of Speech & have been working to get my speech back to normal. Some days it can be a little slow and some days it’s normal. Hopefully I can beat this!”

His original tweet, after being posted on Saturday (19 March) has amassed over 160k likes, 2,500 retweets and 500 quote tweets.

Chris Kamara revealed on Twitter that he has developed speech apraxia (Photo: PA)Chris Kamara revealed on Twitter that he has developed speech apraxia (Photo: PA)
Chris Kamara revealed on Twitter that he has developed speech apraxia (Photo: PA) | PA

Many issued Kamara with words of support and encouragement, including current and former players like Viv Anderson, Steph Houghton and Robert Snodgrass. Anderson wrote: “If anyone can beat this it’s you Kam, all of my best wishes to you and your family”.

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Houghton responded with a heart emoji, while Snodgrass wrote: “Sending well wishes big fella”.

Kamara’s Soccer Saturday co-presenter Jeff Stelling also tweeted: “@chris_kammy you still bring life, energy, fun and understanding to all your reports on Soccer Saturday. We all love you pal. Keep going!”

Following an outpouring of support online, Kamara followed up his original tweet a few days later, thanking everyone for their kind words.

He tweeted: “Thank you so much to everyone for your best wishes. Twitter can be a wonderful platform. The response about my Apraxia has been overwhelming. Unfortunately for you viewers this is not the end of me but “Live TV” might have to take a back seat at the moment. Thank you.”

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What is Apraxia of Speech?

The Speech and Language Therapy Department of the NHS defines apraxia as “difficulty in carrying out planned movements”. It explains that a person with apraxia may be able to carry out automatic movements, such as a yawn, but not planned movements, like opening their mouth when asked.

It goes on to say that “speaking involves a complex set of muscle movement patterns” and that “apraxia of speech is thought to be caused by a problem in the brain area responsible for planning these movements”.

It says: “The muscles are not weak but they will not work properly when a person tries to speak.

The former footballer said that, in regards to his speech and his progress, some days can be slow but other days can be normal (Photo: Joe Maher/Getty Images)The former footballer said that, in regards to his speech and his progress, some days can be slow but other days can be normal (Photo: Joe Maher/Getty Images)
The former footballer said that, in regards to his speech and his progress, some days can be slow but other days can be normal (Photo: Joe Maher/Getty Images) | Getty Images

“Apraxia of speech can be extremely frustrating. The person usually knows what they want to say. When they try to say it, it may come out wrong or not come out at all. They may be able to say a word correctly one minute, but the next time it comes out all wrong.

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“Frequently the person with apraxia will have difficulties with conversational speech. However they may be good at ‘automatic’ speech tasks such as counting, swearing, repeating rhymes, greetings and farewells.”

Symptoms of apraxia of speech can vary depending on the severity of the disorder, but can include:

  • Struggling to pronounce words correctly
  • Being able to say a word correctly one minute, but not the next
  • Having more difficulties with the beginning of words
  • Having more problems with longer words than shorter words
  • Being aware of your mistakes but often being unable to correct them
  • Speaking more slowly
  • Being better at “automatic” speech tasks, like counting and singing 

What is his thyroid problem?

Kamara previously underwent a brain scan to check if he was developing dementia after suffering from what he described as “brain fog”.

He worried the illness might be related to heading the ball as a footballer, however, his symptoms were instead explained by an underactive thyroid, for which he now receives treatment.

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An underactive thyroid gland, also called hypothyroidism, is where a person’s thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones.

After revealing his diagnosis, Chris Kamara received an outpouring of support online  (Photo: Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)After revealing his diagnosis, Chris Kamara received an outpouring of support online  (Photo: Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)
After revealing his diagnosis, Chris Kamara received an outpouring of support online (Photo: Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images) | Getty Images

The NHS says that “an underactive thyroid can often be successfully treated by taking daily hormone tablets to replace the hormones your thyroid is not making”.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Tiredness
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Being sensitive to the cold
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Muscle aches

The only way to determine whether a person has a thyroid problem is through a thyroid function test, which is when the blood is tested for levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone and, where needed, thyroxine and triiodothyronine.

The NHS says that, if untreated, an underactive thyroid can “lead to complications, including heart disease, goitre, pregnancy problems and a life threatening condition called myxoedema coma (although this is very rare)”.

Goitre is the swelling of the thyroid gland which causes a lump in the front of the neck.

Did he receive an MBE?

Chris Kamara has been made an MBE for services to football, anti-racism and charity.

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