Lou Gehrig Really Did Have Lou Gehrig s Disease

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An article in yesterday s New York Times suggests that Lou Gehrig may not have had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig s disease. In a study of just two NFL players and a boxer previously diagnosed with ALS, researchers discovered that the athletes actually suffered from a different fatal disease caused by concussionlike trauma, causing them to propose that Gehrig may have been misdiagnosed as well.

In a blog-post on healthnewsreview.org, publisher Gary Schwitzer accuses The Times of poor medical science journalism and believes the story was troubling on a number of fronts. Dr. Steven Atlas of Massachusetts General Hospital agrees: This represents a small and interesting case series, he told Schwitzer. The lowest rung on the clinical evidence ladder. It is a pretty big stretch to imply that Lou Gehrig may not have had ALS.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross sees it the same way. This is a completely bizarre extrapolation and it was unwarranted given the paucity of data available. The study only focused on three athletes with repeated head trauma who showed clinical manifestations consistent with the diagnosis of ALS. Gehrig s disease progression was perfectly consistent with ALS, and not at all with repetitive head trauma as the study researchers suggest. There is simply no comparison between the head trauma suffered by the three athletes studied and that sustained by Gehrig.

Focusing perhaps more on the semantics, Stier chimed in, whether or not the article was correct, Lou Gehrig had Lou Gehrig s disease.