Among the most startling news stories of the current news cycle, this one may be tops: Lou Gehrig may not have died from Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Gehrig held the record for the most consecutive games played in baseball until Cal Ripken broke it a few years ago. Over that time, he brushed off plenty of injuries. That may be what killed him, according to researchers from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Massachusetts, who will present their findings tomorrow.
Gehrig might have suffered instead from brain trauma. The researchers said markings in the spinal cords of two football players and a boxer showed that they didn’t die of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, even though that was their diagnosis.
How could this be? “Most A.L.S. patients don’t go to autopsy — there’s no need to look at your brain and spinal cord,” Dr. Brian Crum, an assistant professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, told the New York Times. “But a disease can look like A.L.S., it can look like Alzheimer’s, and it’s not when you look at the actual tissue. This is something that needs to be paid attention to.”
But, far too many people have ALS for real. Over the weekend, for example, Eric Obermann was buried. He was one of the youngest people ever diagnosed with ALS. He was struck by the disease when he was only 18. He died last week at 28. You may remember him from emotional testimony before a Congressional panel in 2005, or as a spokesperson for ALS research.
There will be no doubt what killed him.
“We just have so much respect and admiration for what he did …,” Stuart Obermann said of his son. “He gave everything he had left. His last selfless act was donating his brain and spinal cord to ALS research.”
Update 2:53 p.m. U of M’s Gary Schweitzer isn’t buying the NYT story quite yet.