Healthy Living

Honorary Football Captain with Muscular Dystrophy Makes Winning Touchdown

This little boy's middle school helped him achieve his dream of scoring the winning touchdown.

Honorary Football Captain with Muscular Dystrophy Makes Winning Touchdown

Photo: Fox31 Denver

JP Price is a winner in more ways than one. When his school, Craig Middle School, played against their long-time rivals, Steamboat Springs, JP did something remarkable. He made a touchdown.

“So,” you say. “Isn’t that what an 8th-grade football player is supposed to do?” Any other football player, maybe, but not JP. JP has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and spends his days in a wheelchair.

“We’re here to support this young man and to show him what it’s all about,” said the team’s coach, Tony Maneotis.

JP’s dream has always been to score a touchdown. Craig Middle School and Steamboat Springs Middle School teams allowed JP to run for a victory touchdown in their game last week. JP knew nothing about the plans to let him run the football. It didn’t matter who won the game; the result was the fulfillment of a little boy’s dream and the big smile that spread across his face.

JP’s dream was made possible by a loving community, and you can help by finding his GoFundMe page and donating for his family to pay some of his medical costs.

Muscular dystrophies cause muscles to become weaker and less flexible as time progresses, and Duchenne muscular dystrophy or DMD is the most common type. DMD is caused by flaws in the genes that control how your body keeps its muscles healthy.

DMD affects mainly boys, and the symptoms generally start in early childhood. Boys with DMD have a difficult time walking, climbing stairs, and just standing up. Many often need wheelchairs to get around as the disease progresses. Boys with DMD may also experience heart and lung issues.

Progress is being made in DMD research – children with the disease can live well into their 30s and at times into their 40s and 50s. More therapies are being discovered than are currently available, and these new therapies may help those with DMD live more productive lives.

How is DMD diagnosed?

To get a definitive diagnosis of DMD, your doctor will ask questions about your child’s difficulties in running and climbing stairs or getting up from the floor. You will also be asked how long you have noticed these problems. You may be asked if anyone else in your family has muscular dystrophy, how long and what type of dystrophy do they have. Other questions may be, does your child have trouble breathing and does he pay attention at home and school?

The doctor will also conduct a physical exam, blood and muscle tests to rule out other causes of muscle weakness.

What treatments are available?

No cure for DMD has been found, but some therapies and medications can ease the symptoms, protect muscles and keep the heart and lungs healthy.

The medication Eteplirsen or Exodys 51 has found to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy in some children. The medication is an injection that treats DMD. 

In 2017, the oral corticosteroid deflazacort or Emflaza was approved to treat DMD. This medication is the first FDA approved corticosteroid to treat this condition. Deflazacort helps patients maintain muscle strength and helps them walk. Common side effects, however, include weight gain, increased appetite, and puffiness.

Prednisone may slow muscle damage. Those children who take prednisone can often walk for 2 to 5 years longer than they would without the drug. Prednisone also helps your child’s heart and lungs work at a much more efficient rate.

Since DMD causes heart problems, it is essential to have a heart doctor, or a cardiologist do checkups once every two years until your child reaches age 10. Girls and women who carry the mutated gene have a risk of heart problems, too. They should see a cardiologist in their teens and early 20s to ensure there are no problems.

There are blood pressure medicines that protect against muscle damage to the heart. Children with DMD may need surgery to fix shortened muscles, straighten the spine or treat lung and heart problems.

Are there any ways to take care of a child with DMD?

Once your child has been diagnosed with DMD, there are things you can do to help him live a fulfilling life.

  • Help him stand up and walk as much as possible. Standing and walking will keep bones strong and the spine straight. Braces or a standing walker can make it easier for your child to get around.
  • Maintain a good diet. There are no special foods for children with DMD, but healthy foods prevent weight gain and help with constipation. A dietitian can give you tips and tricks to ensure your child eats the right balance of nutrients and calories. If your child develops trouble swallowing, you may need to see a specialist.
  • Stay active and exercise. Stretches and exercise keep muscles and joints limber and help your child to feel better. Physical therapists can teach you how to help him exercise safety and without overworking already damaged muscles.
  • Find a support system. Other families with a child with DMD can be excellent sources for understanding and advice. Local support groups may also be in your community to help you talk out your feelings.