You may be surprised to learn that some of your favorite athletes and celebrities have a condition called Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, involuntary movements and vocalizations.

Tourette Syndrome is rare (fewer than 200,000 Americans have a severe case) and it usually strikes children between seven and ten. Males are three times more likely to have this condition. Tourette Syndrome often occurs in conjunction with other neurobehavioral problems, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, depression, and anxiety.

People with Tourette Syndrome have tics--sudden, brief, and often jerky gestures, sometimes accompanied by vocal sounds, over which they have no control. Simple tic movements might include eye blinking, grimacing, shrugging, head and shoulder jerking, repetitive throat clearing, sniffing, and grunting. Complex tics generally combine multiple movements, and vocalizations may include words and phrases. Some people (uncontrollably) even swear and use obscene language. Although this is very rare, the media tends emphasize this symptom when portraying Tourette Syndrome.

Who has Tourette Syndrome?

Jeremy Stenberg is well known among young adventure sports enthusiasts. He's a professional freestyle motocross rider who proudly goes by the nickname "Twitch." Although he experiences tics while riding, he doesn't let them interfere in his sport.

Soccer standouts Tim Howard, goalkeeper for the Manchester United Soccer Team and a 2000 Olympic participant, and David Beckham, namesake of the movie "Bend it like Beckham," both have Tourette Syndrome. So does Jim Gisenriech, a major league baseball player who played for the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1993 World Championship game and the Florida Marlins in the 1997 World Series.

Since his early days as a regular on Saturday Night Live, Dan Aykroyd has starred in numerous blockbuster movies such as Ghostbusters and the Blues Brothers. Although he still has occasional tics, Aykroyd says his Tourette symptoms mostly subsided by the time he was 14.

Howie Mandel was voted one of the 100 best stand-up comedians of all time. You may also know him from his roles on St. Elsewhere and Bobby's World. In addition to Tourette syndrome, Mandel also has Obsessive Compulsive Disorders and struggles with an obsession with germs.

As you can see, people who have Tourette Syndrome function and are often highly successful despite this affliction. It's not curable; however, most people learn to manage their symptoms, sometimes with the help of psychotherapy or deep brain stimulation. There are also medications that help control symptoms when Tourette Syndrome interferes in normal functioning.


"Dan Aykroyd suffers from mild Tourettes and Aspergers." Web. 17 March 2010.

"What is Tourette Syndrome?" Tourette Syndrome Association. Web.

National Institutes of Health. National institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. "Tourette Syndrome Fact Sheet." Web.

"Tourette syndrome." Mayo Clinic. Web.

Packer, Leslie E. "Some Famous People Who Had or Have Tourette's Syndrome and/or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder." Tourette Syndrome "Plus." Web. 2006