Ground-breaking study links ALS diagnosis to head injuries
The New York Times published a report on August 18, in which physicians questioned whether Lou Gehrig actually died from Lou Gehrig's Disease, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. The report anticipates a new peer-reviewed paper to be published this week in a leading journal on neuropathology. The study suggests that many athletes and war injured-veterans have been mis-diagnosed with ALS when they actually suffer from damage to the central nervous system. Although it doesn't identify Gehrig by name, the authors explained to the NYT that Gehrig's history of severe concussions without resting and his subsequent demise suggest a high likelihood that trauma played a role in his death.
According to the NYT, the study notes that an unrepresentative number of ALS diagnoses have been identified among European soccer professionals, American football players and boxers, and U.S. combat veterans. On closer analysis at autopsy, it appears that many of these patients are actually suffering from a different disorder having a traumatic origin. According to the study to be published in the Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology, a number of professional athletes with ALS-like symptoms have been found with dramatically high levels of tau and TDP-43, two proteins known to cause motor-neuron degeneration. One researcher said these markers "travel down the spinal cord" as a result of injury to the brain, rather than evidencing direct injury to the spinal cord. That pattern has never been identified in ALS victims who did not evidence previous documented head injury. The researchers also speculate that the individuals involved are probably genetically vulnerable to concussion ramifications.