Lou Gehrig May Not Have Had Lou Gehrig’s Disease
Yankees legend Lou Gehrig died 69 years ago from what was believed to be amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, where is when various cells in the brain and spinal column become slowly diseased and voluntary motor function becomes increasingly impaired. In fact, Gehrig was the first truly public face put on the ailment, hence how it came to be known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Turns out, there’s a good chance Lou Gehrig didn’t die of Lou Gehrig’s disease, according to a group of Boston researchers that will publish their findings Wednesday in the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology. While Gehrig is not mentioned specifically in the study [pdf], the findings highlight three cases, physiologically akin to Gehrig, in which people were diagnosed as having ALS but actually suffered from similar neurotrauma brought on by the long-term effects of concussions and other brain damage. It was the discovery of a higher concentration of “toxic proteins” in the spinal cord that signified a neurological condition similar in symptoms to ALS. As the study’s authors put it, “This is the ﬁrst pathological evidence that repetitive head trauma experienced in collision sports might be associated with the development of a motor neuron disease.”
Lou Gehrig may not have really had Lou Gehrig's disease: Study shows concussions, brain trauma can mimic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
In the 71 years since the Yankees slugger Lou Gehrig declared himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” despite dying from a disease that would soon bear his name, he has stood as America’s leading icon of athletic valor struck down by random, inexplicable fate.The important thing about all this is recognising that vocations such as athlete and soldier, which have a higher rate of concussions, can add to the likelihood that someone could develop an ALS-like neuron disorder, and that, given that this is possible, more study should be given to how to prevent and treat it.
A peer-reviewed paper to be published Wednesday in a leading journal of neuropathology, however, suggests that Gehrig’s demise — and that of some other athletes and soldiers given a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — might have been catalyzed by injuries only now becoming understood: concussions and other brain trauma.
Although the paper does not discuss Gehrig specifically, its authors in interviews acknowledged the clear implication: Lou Gehrig might not have had Lou Gehrig’s disease.