Gehrig May Not Have Had Gehrig's Disease

BOSTON, Aug. 17 (UPI) — Baseball great Lou Gehrig may not have had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the disease named after him, U.S. researchers suggest.

Researchers at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bedford, Mass., and the Boston University School of Medicine say it is impossible to determine if Gehrig had ALS because his remains were cremated, The New York Times reported.

However, the researchers examined the spinal cords of two National Football League players and one boxer who also received a diagnosis of ALS and their findings, published in the Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology, say the athletes had a different fatal disease, caused by concussion-like trauma, that erodes the central nervous system in similar ways to ALS.

Lead neuropathologist on the study, Dr. Ann McKee of the New England Veterans Administration Medical Centers, says brain trauma results in motor-neuron degeneration but it is a different disorder than ALS with different markings and high levels of two protein abnormalities that appear in the spinal cord as a result of blows to the brain, with the proteins probably traveling down the spinal cord compromising nerve function.

Gehrig was known for playing although he was injured — he was knocked unconscious four times as a baseball player and he played 2,130 consecutive games in 14 years — but he could have had more concussions not noted in the newspapers, the Times said.

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