Hop’s symptoms began just before the pandemic. Medical facilities were limited during that time, and it took longer to receive the treatment he needed.
“I started noticing some issues with my stability and my speed on my instruments and just general mobility as early as the fall of 2019,” he said. At the time, he was taking cholesterol medication and his doctors suggested going off of it to see if symptoms improved. They didn’t.
Hopkins knew that something was wrong, but he couldn’t figure out what. With limited access to medical care during the pandemic, it was more difficult.
“No one did anything for 18 months,” he said.
He says that his knees would occasionally lock up. “The only thing I can liken it to is cerebral palsy where if one gets emotional, one doesn’t have as much control over their muscles,” he said.
The Zac Brown Band member’s official diagnosis came in December of 2021. Tuesday, June 21, is Global ALS Awareness Day. Hopkins offered more about his struggle in honor of that moment.
“When you hear something like that, the world gets pretty small and the anxiety was really rough,” he said of when he received the news.
Lingering Questions for Zac Brown Band Member
There remain many unknowns about ALS, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
“The truth is there are still a lot of questions about it,” Hopkins said. “It could be any number of different diseases that lead to this symptom. Why do football players seem to get it? Why? Maybe it’s head trauma. You know, why do young people get it? Maybe it’s environment. Maybe it’s their internal biome. I’ve been known to have a beer and pizza in my day and my doctors have assured me that’s not it.”
Hopkins remains on tour with Zac Brown Band. The band is playing baseball parks this year, in addition to their usual appearances at amphitheaters. They just wrapped a show at their “home” field at Truist Park in Atlanta. They’ll stop by Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Citi Field and Chase Field before the end of the year. To see a full list of dates for Zac Brown Band in 2022 and for ticket information, visit their website.
Soon after his diagnosis, John Driskell Hopkins created the nonproft Hop On A Cure. Through that, he is actively working on finding methods that “have the highest impact for stopping and reversing the symptoms of the illness.” The nonprofit’s mission is “supporting research to prevent, reverse and cure ALS while raising awareness, building a compassionate community and unleashing the healing power of hope.”