Koala bears aren't bears (they're marsupials), Arabic numerals actually came from India...and Lou Gehrig might not have had Lou Gehrig's disease?
According to the New York Times, a new study set to come out in a medical journal this week suggests just that, potentially adding Lou Gehrig's disease to the list of other misnomers.
So if Gehrig didn't suffer from his eponymous disease, what did he have? A similar degenerative condition, most likely brought on by concussions/head trauma.
As the Times points out, Gehrig was renowned during his playing days for his ability to play through injuries, particularly ones to his head. You certainly don't get to be baseball's Ironman without being able to play through a bit of pain. But on at least four separate occasions, Gehrig was knocked out during games -- either during collisions on the basepaths, taking a pitch to the head or a brawl -- and either returned to the game or played the next day.
While scientists can't examine Gehrig's remains to determine if he really suffered from ALS, his history of head injuries raises the possibility that he had an entirely different condition. Indeed, looking at former NFL players and boxers who have been diagnosed with ALS, researchers found that they had a higher concentration of two proteins in their spinal columns than ALS patients typically do. Those proteins were likely the result of repeated head trauma, which ended up producing symptoms similar to those of ALS.
Given that former football players and army veterans have reported ALS diagnoses of up to 6-8 times the general population, it would certainly make sense that some type of physical trauma contributed to their symptoms. Still, scientists don't think that everyone subjected to intense brain trauma would produce this type of reaction; rather, a percentage of the population may be genetically predisposed to respond this way.
If this is true, it adds more urgency to the NFL to come up with some other concussion policy beyond just throwing their hands up. At least they've begun by acknowledging that concussions are very, very bad.