-Dr.Kathy Johnson, PhD, CMC
Recent studies suggest Lou Gehrig might not have had Lou Gehrig’s disease according to this New York Times article. Gehrig exhibited the same symptoms associated with A.L.S. but its causes might have been different. A study published in a prominent journal on neuropathology suggests that athletes and soldiers given the diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (A.L.S. or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) may have formed these symptoms from repetitive injuries like concussions and head trauma.
Doctors at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Massachusetts and Boston University School of Medicine have been studying deceased athletes who have suffered head trauma. Recently, these doctors discovered that two past NFL players and a boxer, all diagnosed with A.L.S., did not actually have the disease at all. Instead, they had a different disease caused by trauma to the brain that wears away the central nervous system in similar ways.
Lou Gehrig suffered from multiple concussions during his baseball career and high school football bout as a running back at Columbia University. His resolve to play through these injuries without adequate recovery time could have also contributed to his condition, though the exact cause of his death will remain unknown as his body was cremated.
These recent studies have shown that head traumas can serve as a catalyst for genes that erode the victims’ nervous system, causing A.L.S.type symptoms. According to these studies, “dramatically high levels of tau and TDP-43, two proteins known to cause motor-neuron degeneration, were found in the spinal cords as a result of blows to the brain, with the proteins probably traveling down the spinal cord, rather than direct injury to the spinal cord.” This process, like A.L.S., leads to a progressive motor degeneration and death.