MANCHESTER UNITED GOALIE TIM HOWARD TELLS
"60 MINUTES" HOW HE CONTROLS HIS TOURETTE'S SYNDROME,
IN A PROFILE OF THE SOCCER STAR SUNDAY ON CBS
Playing goal for the world's most famous soccer team means pressure, the kind of stress that can bring on Tourette's syndrome, a neurological condition that causes involuntary muscle spasms and movements known as tics. But Tourette's hasn't stopped Manchester United goalie Tim Howard from excelling at his craft; he tells Steve Kroft he's been controlling the condition by willpower since he was a child. Kroft's profile of the young American will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, Jan. 16 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
"It's just a battle of the will...your willpower versus what your mind is telling your body to do," says Howard. "It's about suppressing those physical movements...those vocalizations," he tells Kroft.
Controlling his Tourette's is something Howard has been doing successfully since he was a child. As a large, popular kid who played all sports, he wasn't made fun of, he says, but could control the disorder if he overheard someone noticing his spasms. "I used to have a game I would play. I'd be ticking or twitching...and I could hear someone whisper, 'Watch Tim.' So right then I would turn it on and I'd make sure I didn't tick," recalls Howard. "And now they were thinking the other person was crazy, because Tim looked like he was normal."
Howard takes no drugs for the disorder, fearing they might dull his mind or his reflexes. He was able to completely control his ticks during one interview with Kroft, or as he said "[they are] at bay...[they are] being nice to me today." But in another interview, the Tourette's was more noticeable. He says it affects him differently in different situations. Pressure and stress can trigger the condition, he says, and on the field he experiences ticks, but ironically, they've never affected him when he has to defend the goal. "[Players] could be out there by midfield somewhere and I may have a twitch, a tick of the eyes, of the head, of the arm, but when they get in [close to his goal] and it's time to go to work, it just doesn't happen," he tells Kroft. "I don't know why," he says. "...Even doctors or smarter men than me can't explain it."
One thing he does know is "if you told me to sit in a room and you had a million dollars stacked right there and said, 'Don't move. Don't twitch. Don't do anything,' without a doubt, the million dollars would be mine," he tells Kroft.
Howard has a multi-million-dollar contract with England's famed Manchester United, and knows mistakes in goal could cost him his job -- so if the Tourette's ever does get the best of him and a 65-mile-per-hour soccer ball comes his way and a tic or a twitch costs him the game, "Maybe one day it will...and maybe I'll get fired for that. I don't know," says Howard. "But I can deal with that, too. I'll just say something was in my eye," quips Howard.