Sterling Marlin reveals diagnosis

Updated: October 28, 2012, 10:08 AM ET
By Marty Smith | ESPN

For the past year or so, Sterling Marlin's brain would tell his right hand to complete a fine-motor task, such as cranking a boat or buttoning the collar on a shirt. And the fingers on that hand wouldn't respond.

And with time his hand began to shake.

Marlin said symptoms first began after he suffered a laceration to the knuckle on the middle finger of his right hand. The injury, he said, included nerve damage. But rather than go to the doctor he simply Super-Glued it closed.

[+] EnlargeMarlin
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesSterling Marlin, a 10-time Sprint Cup race winner, revealed a Parkinsonism diagnosis.

"Cut the knuckle real bad on (my) bird finger ... I couldn't shoot a bird. Just impossible," said Marlin, reached by phone. "It wouldn't move and I thought that was the problem. But it got healed up and I said, '... Something's still wrong.' And it kept getting worse and worse and worse, so I went to the doctor to see what the hell's going on."

During that visit, Marlin said, doctors revealed that he had developed Parkinsonism.

Then the rumors started.

"I've had people say, 'Man, you got Parkinson's Disease?' I say, 'F--- naw!'" laughed Marlin in signature matter-of-fact fashion. "It's called Parkinsonism. It's associated with (Parkinson's Disease), but it's nothing-near like it. You just take the medicine and you'll be fine. It ain't no problem."

According to the Mayo Clinic's website, Parkinsonism is "any condition that causes a combination of the movement abnormalities seen in Parkinson's disease -- such as tremor, slow movement, impaired speech or muscle stiffness -- especially resulting from the loss of dopamine-containing nerve cells (neurons)."

"You'd kind of lost motor controls of your right arm, you know?" Marlin said, as if speaking about someone else. "Like, buttoning your sleeve on your shirt, you couldn't do it. You'd tell your finger to work and it wouldn't work.

"I got where I couldn't throw a football. I couldn't throw a football 10 yards and hit the side of a barn, like your release. And hell, I can throw one pretty damn good now."

The clinic's website goes on to note that "not everyone who has Parkinsonism has Parkinson's disease. Other causes of Parkinsonism can include: medications, such as those used to treat psychosis, major psychiatric disorders and nausea; repeated head trauma, such as injuries sustained in boxing; certain neurodegenerative disorders, such as multiple system atrophy and progressive supranuclear palsy; Lewy body dementia."

Marlin, who won 10 Sprint Cup races during a lengthy career, and is one of just nine men to win multiple Daytona 500s after going back-to-back in 1994 and 1995, was prescribed medicine for the condition and said, "it's like perfect now."

The initial diagnosis came months ago, and Marlin hasn't returned to the doctor for a checkup.

"I been meaning to go back and see him, but I've just been busy with these race cars," said Marlin, who is retired from Sprint Cup racing but competed this summer at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. "He said people got (Parkinsonism) and function with it every day. It's just a thing, you know? I hate going to doctors, but I need to make an appointment and go."