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No Evidence of Lou Gehrig's Disease from Head Trauma

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

An editorial published in the journal Muscle & Nerve highlights the lack of evidence that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is caused by "repetitive head trauma experienced in collision sports", suggested in a recent study. The condition, known Lou Gehrig's disease, is a degnerative neurological disorder that affects 20 to 30 thousand Americans, with another 5000 diagnosed annually, according to the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Media Coverage about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Raises Concerns

Dr. Stanley H. Appel, Chairman of the Department of Neurology at the Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, and one of the foremost experts on Lou Gehrig's disease says, two media reports: "Brain Trauma Can Mimic Lou Gehrig's Disease" in the New York Times and "Maybe Lou Gehrig Didn't Die of Lou Gehrig's Disease" in Time magazine have raised concerns from patients that they may be misdiagnosed. He says media coverage of the research from McKee et. al lacks scientific evidence.

"We want to make it clear to physicians and their ALS patients that reports of Lou Gehrig succumbing to anything but the disease which bears his name are inaccurate."

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The study examined pathological changes in the brains of 12 patients with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), finding a buildup of two proteins in 3 patients that are common to patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

The authors concluded trauma to the head and CTE caused an "ALS-like" condition. Valerie Cwik, M.D., Executive Vice President and Medical Director for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and co-author of the editorial said, "More likely their 3 patients with CTE and ALS had the two distinct diseases."

The 3 patients had TAR DNA-binding protein (TDP-43) and tau in their spinal cords. Tau is linked to a variety of neurodegenerative diseases and TDP-43 is present in most cases of ALS.

The editorialists say amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is diagnosed based on strict criteria, and not from pathological findings. The reports have produced concern from patients with the disease.

Available in December