Kevin Turner, former NFL player diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease)
Super Bowl XLV is only a few hours away. While the Steelers–Packers game is expected to be one for the history books and a classic example of how popular football has become in this nation, I wanted to bring our focus on the health struggles of retired NFL players. Kevin Turner, a former NFL full back for the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease) in June 2010. He is supposed to be the 14th NFL player to have been diagnosed with this fatal disease (read about Stephen Hawking’s battle with ALS).
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive condition caused by the degeneration of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. In the US, it is commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig‘s disease, after the famous New York Yankees baseball player Lou Gehrig who was diagnosed with ALS in 1939. Although there is no known cure for ALS, there are 35 clinical trials currently active to develop new cures for ALS, some of them being:
You can search for these studies by treatments such as:
or by doctors conducting these clinical trials.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a relatively rare disease, affecting approximately 1 out of every 100,000 people. The cause is unknown for 90% of the cases, with the remaining 10% caused by a genetic defect. ALS results in loss of muscle strength which disables a person to perform tasks such as going up steps, getting out of a chair, or swallowing. Interestingly, ALS does not affect the senses (touch, smell, sight, taste, hearing) and person’s ability to think or reason. Common symptoms for ALS include difficulty in breathing and swallowing, head drop due to weak spinal and neck muscles, speech problems and paralysis.
In August 2010, scientists found evidence connecting head injuries in athletes to a condition that mimics Lou Gehrig’s disease, in a study partly funded by NFL. Scientists said they found toxic proteins in the spinal cords of three athletes who sustained head injuries and were later diagnosed with ALS. Those same proteins have been found in the brains of athletes with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease linked to head injuries that causes cognitive decline, abnormal behavior and dementia.
Kevin Turner has not let this diagnosis discourage him, and he is now involved in research that links chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) to ALS, agreeing to donate his brain and spinal cord when he dies. Since then he has created the Kevin Turner Foundation, to bring attention to ALS and the need for a cure, raise awareness about the seriousness of braintrauma in athletes at every level of competition and its possible connection to ALS, and to financially support efforts to study, treat, prevent and ultimately cure this disease.
We admire his courage, and those of other NFL players in tackling serious diseases head on.