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Study Says Brain Trauma Can Mimic Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS)

Posted Aug 17 2010 8:51pm
By Max Wallack
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Did Lou Gehrig Have Lou Gehrig’s Disease?

For the past two weeks, things have been very exciting at Boston University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center. I know I am very privileged to be able to be here at a time when important findings are reached.

In a paper to be published tomorrow in the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology, researchers at the BU School of Medicine have found that the spinal markings of two deceased National Football League players who were diagnosed as having ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, did not have ALS. Rather, they showed the marking of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a potentially fatal disease caused by repeated concussions.

Dr. Ann McKee and Dr. Stern, both at Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, said that “this finding solidifies a long-suspected connection between ALS-like motor disease and head trauma experienced in collision sports and combat.”

Dr. Stern added,
“People are being misdiagnosed clinically while they’re alive as having ALS when in fact they have a different motor neuron disease. Scientists will be able to get at a faster understanding of the disease in general, and therefore effective treatment, by knowing about who’s at risk and who’s not.”
To date, Dr. McKee’s group has
“identified 14 former NFL players since 1960 as having been given diagnoses of ALS, a total of about eight times higher than would be expected among men in the United States of similar ages.”

United States military servicemen are also at higher risk for ALS, perhaps as a result of concussions leading to dementia and cognitive decline in NFL veterans.

The article goes on to describe four incidents in which Lou Gehrig was knocked unconscious. Since Lou Gehrig’s remains were cremated, it is not possible to make a definite determination in his case. However, Lou Gehrig was famous for continuing to play in spite of his many injuries.

The entire article appears here.


Max Wallack is a student at Boston University Academy. His great grandmother, Gertrude, suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Max is the founder of PUZZLES TO REMEMBER. PTR is a project that provides puzzles to nursing homes and veterans institutions that care for Alzheimer's and dementia patients.

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Original content Max Wallack, the Alzheimer's Reading Room


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