Chris Kamara on apraxia diagnosis: 'I suffered in silence for 20 months'

  • Kamara speaks to ITV News about his speech apraxia ahead of a new documentary

Chris Kamara says he "suffered in silence" with speech problems for almost two years before he was diagnosed with a thyroid problem.

The former footballer, who has become one of the best-loved broadcasting pundits in the country, revealed he had speech apraxia earlier this year after television viewers noticed him slurring his words on air.

He later quit his job with Sky Sports, but has continued to work in television and radio.

Speaking to ITV News ahead of a documentary about his condition, Kamara – known to millions by his nickname "Kammy" – said he wanted his experience to be a warning to other people.

He said: "Initially I was in denial. I'm a dinosaur. I suffered in silence for about 20 months and in that time my thyroid gland became virtually non-existent , so that could be the reason for all my problems along the line, by just not going to see a doctor.

"Now not only have I got an underactive thyroid, the apraxia of speech has come on, my balance is no good, I'm really weak."

The 64-year-old former Leeds United, Sheffield United and Bradford City player, from Middlesbrough, has been determined not to let his difficulties prevent him from working. He has continued to co-present ITV's Ninja Warrior as well as a BBC podcast.

Kamara has been receiving oxygen therapy. Credit: Twitter/Chris Kamara

He said he had tried a number of treatments, including oxygen therapy, speech exercises and wears an electronic tag which sends currents through his body to try to stimulate his speech.

But, speaking on the ITV documentary Lost for Words, he said every day was a struggle.

"I know what I want to say but the process of saying it has gone wrong somehow," he said.

Presented by his friend and colleague Ben Shephard, Lost For Words charts Kamara's journey with the condition as he encourages other people to seek help from a doctor.

Speaking about early discussions with production companies, Kamara said he was initially reluctant, telling them he didn't want to "be the victim".

"I said 'the only way I'll do it [is if] it helps raise awareness for speech issues', and he said 'you know I'll do that'," Kamara said.

"I thought, I can tell my story, and I can help other people."

Shephard was full of praise for how Kamara has confronted his problems.

"It's been amazing to watch how brilliantly Kammy's embraced the challenge he's facing now, because at times it is really apparent and at times very difficult," he said.

"It hasn't slowed him down, it hasn't stopped him, he's still the brilliant Kammy that we love."

Kamara said he hopes his decision to open up about his own problems will help others.

"Five percent of all children are impacted by speech and language problems," he said.

"They're woefully let down by the system, so they can't get help, or if they get help it's a three month appointment, then they see someone for an hour, and then the next time it's three months again."

Lost For Words is on ITV1 at 9pm on Wednesday 14 December.

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