Iceland has one of the best team spirits, our country is one big family and ever since the European Championship 2016 we even played ourselves into the hearts of soccer fans around the globe. With the support of our sons and daughters we made it to the World Cup tournament for the first time in our history. Unfortunately we’re on top in another field: We’re number 2 in the World when it comes to Parkinson's Disease.
Even when Parkinson's is still not completely curable, let's do everything to support patients and show solidarity.
With the help of the Icelandic national soccer team we made the first step and created a campaign across national borders to call attention to our cause. The Parkinson’s Foundation Parkinsonsamtökin and the Islandic Football association KSÍ turned the national players into ambassadors – the Sons of Solidarity.
10 million people
have the condition worldwide
1 in 10 is under 50
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative condition – an illness that affects nerve cells in the brain that control movement. It's symptoms appear gradually and slowly get worse. It is named after James Parkinson, the London doctor who first reported the symptoms in 1817. The disease can occur at any age. Early onset Parkinson's, also known as young onset Parkinson’s (YOPD), is defined as occurring in someone below the age of 40.
Our movements are controlled by nerve cells (neurons) in the brain which pass messages to one another, and to the rest of the body, using chemicals called neurotransmitters. An area of the brain (substantia nigra) produces one of the neurotransmitters that controls movement: dopamine. In people with Parkinson’s, 70-80% of dopamine-producing cells gradually deteriorate and are lost (neurodegeneration).
The loss of dopamine-producing neurons results the part of the brain that controls movement and balance. Nerve cells do not pass on brain messages properly and make the symptoms appear. Beside the main neurotransmitter dopamine other neurotransmitters are affected. That's why simply replacing dopamine does not necessarily cause improvement.
As yet there is no cure for Parkinson’s, patients can influence the course of the disease with special therapies. Maintaining a positive approach seems to slow down the progression of symptoms and enhance the quality of life. Although Parkinson’s is life-altering, it's not life-threatening. Some of the more advanced symptoms may make affected people more vulnerable to infection, but for the most the disease will not significantly reduce life expectancy.
Everyone with Parkinson’s has different symptoms, that are developed at different rates. They tend to appear gradually, normally in just one side of the body at first, although both sides will eventually be affected. Most commonly the symptoms also fluctuate from day to day, with the person experiencing ‘good’ and ‘bad’ days.
When Parkinson’s strikes you, you have to kick back. An effective way to do this, is to take it literally. Really kicking back – by playing football. Keeping active itbating the progression of Parkinson’s. Physiotherapist can confirm that the movements required in football were very similar to the ones that they ask their patients to perform. Team sports also have benefits beyond this by creating a sociable, fun environment for people with Parkinson’s to interact with one another.
Two big players in their fields. For one good cause.
The Parkinson's Association Parkinsonsamtökin (link) was founded to assist people with Parkinson's disease and their families, provide education, support research on the disease, and be a common forum for the members. The concept of Sons of Solidarity also needed some help of another big player to bring the idea to life. Fortunately KSÍ (link) has decided to choose specific social projects each year and focus on them, so it was a perfect match to collaborate with the Parkinson’s Association for the Sons of Solidarity project just before the World Championship. Now both are empowering each other to make the most of the effort and make the project and community real and tangible benefit.
Gudni Bergsson, chairman of KSÍ, is looking forward to the partnership: "We are honored to be able to assist in the work of these important organizations in this worthwhile project." Together KSÍ and Parkinsonsamtökin are strong parts of the Sons of Solidarity, highly committed in the fight against Parkinson's disease.
"Sports is all well and good, but it is not all that life is about. A sentence that I use to quote quite often is: “A healthy person has a thousand wishes, but a sick person has only one.” – being healthy. That is something we should never forget." Helgi Kolviðsson
"Solidarity is something that we as a national team can really relate to. Our team ethics and team values are very much based on togetherness, team discipline, team efforts and team organization. It is pretty much in everything in what we do as a national team. Iceland wouldn’t be where we are without the solidarity of our team, the nation and fans behind it." Ómar Smárason
"I think everybody knows somebody that has been dealing with this disease. And everybody needs help in life at some point. I’m just honored to be part of the campaign." Guðmundur Benediktsson
"In the past, I thought only old people could get it, because my grandfather had it. But today I know that a lot of young people are suffering from it, as well. So I think it’s a really important project to make people aware of Parkinson’s. For this reason, I just wanted to be here to be part of this project." Emil Hallfreðsson
"It is very important, that Iceland is doing whatever it takes to help the people that are affected by Parkinson’s so that they can live their lives as good as possible. It’s a good ambition to lower the death rate here in Iceland." Birkir Már Sævarsson