According to the Tourette Association of America, ‘Soccer star Tim Howard, baseball MVP Jim Eisenreich, and NASCAR driver Steve Wallace have something in common’.
They all have Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurological condition characterised by involuntary vocalisations and body movements or tics.
It’s been reported in the past that Mozart may have also suffered from the affliction.
Due to its association with ADHD and OCD, this disorder is uniquely beneficial when it comes to sports, as lightning quick reflexes and high energy can be a side effect of someone with an attention deficit or obsessive compulsion.
Tim Howard has described his ability to turn off the tics as soon as he steps onto the pitch. He wrote about the experience in an article for The Guardian in 2014.
“The closer that ball came, the more my symptoms receded. The tics, the crazy thoughts, the conflicting mental messages – poof! They were gone in an instant.”
Famed neurologist Dr Oliver Sacks studied the condition and its connection to superior athleticism in depth, claiming it has a definitive correlation. ‘Abnormal quickness’, Sacks told The Daily Beast in 2014, ‘I see this in many other people with Tourette’s’.
He also noted extraordinary abilities in musicians with Tourette’s. While observing a drummer, he noticed a change in the usually frenetic man as soon as he started banging away. Dr Sacks wrote about this experience in an article titled Witty Ticy Ray for the London Review of Books in 1981.
“Famous for his sudden and wild extemporisations, which would arise from a tic or a compulsive hitting of a drum and would instantly be made the nucleus of a wild and wonderful improvisation, so that the ‘sudden intruder’ would be turned to brilliant advantage.”
It could all be due to the surge of Dopamine in a ‘touretter’s’ brain, which is a naturally occurring stimulant.
With every cloud, there is apparently a silver lining.