Lou Gehrig May Not Have Had Lou Gehrig’s Disease

Lou Gehrig may not have had “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”

The New York Times is reporting on a peer-reviewed paper in Journal Neuropathy suggesting that baseball legend Lou Gehrig may not have suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at all, but from a fatal disease caused by concussion-like trauma that erodes the central nervous system, producing similar symptoms.

When Lou Gehrig died in 1941, ALS was commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”

The Times points out that the paper does not specifically mention Gehrig, but “its authors in interviews acknowledged the clear implication: Lou Gehrig might not have had Lou Gehrig’s disease.”

The New York Yankee was diagnosed with ALS in 1939 after months of mysterious physical symptoms and a marked decline in athletic skills. The disease was virtually unknown among the general public and at the time was also referred to as infantile paralysis.

With his condition deteriorating rapidly, Gehrig had no choice but to leave the game he so loved. Facing his adoring fans, he gave an emotional farewell speech in which he called himself, “the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” words that would capture the hearts of generations yet unborn.

Lou Gehrig’s Farewell Speech

Most ALS patients are not autopsied, but researchers looking at brain damage in deceased ALS patients found that two football players and one boxer who had been diagnosed with ALS actually had a different fatal disease caused by brain trauma that produces similar symptoms.

At present, researchers are studying similar symptoms in athletes and military veterans, who are being diagnosed with ALS at higher than average rates.

Lou Gehrig had a history of concussions on the baseball field and as a football halfback in high school. He also had a history of playing through injuries, a habit that no doubt contributed to his popularity and hero status. There are at least four documented incidents of Gehrig being knocked unconscious and many other hits to the head.

None of this takes away from the greatness that defined Lou Gehrig, nor does it erase the memory how one man faced his fans and called himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” even after such a devastating diagnosis.

It does offer new insight into traumatic brain injury and ALS, offering hope for better diagnosis and treatment in the future.

Lou Gehrig’s Disease – Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Progressive degeneration of motor neurons lead to their death, resulting in the inability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement. Patients in late stages of the disease may be totally paralyzed.

From the ALS Association:

  • The onset of ALS is insidious with muscle weakness or stiffness as early symptoms. Progression of weakness, wasting and paralysis of the muscles of the limbs and trunk as well as those that control vital functions such as speech, swallowing and later breathing generally follows.
  • ALS is not contagious.
  • Approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. The incidence of ALS is two per 100,000 people, and it is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans may have the disease at any given time.
  • Although the life expectancy of an ALS patient averages about two to five years from the time of diagnosis, this disease is variable and many people live with quality for five years and more. More than half of all patients live more than three years after diagnosis. There are people in whom ALS has stopped progressing and a small number of people in whom the symptoms of ALS reversed.
  • ALS occurs throughout the world with no racial, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries.
  • ALS can strike anyone.
  • The cause is unknown and there is currently no cure.

Photo: Harris & Ewing Collection at the Library of Congress, via Wikimedia Commons


Past Member
Past Member about a month ago

I was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) 15 months ago. At that time riluzole was prescribed. I found I could not tolerate it. did very little to help me. The medical team did even less. My decline was rapid and devastating. The psychological support from the medical centre was non-existent and if it were not for the sensitive care and attention of my primary physician, I would have died. There has been little if any progress in finding a cure or reliable treatment. My ALS got significantly worse and unbearable because of my difficulty catching breath. Last year, i started on a natural ALS Herbal therapy from Green House Herbal Clinic, i read a lot of positive reviews from patients who used the treatment and i immediately started on it. I had great relief with this herbal treatment. I am doing very much better now, no case of shortness of breath or difficulty swallowing,, my ALS condition is totally reversed. Visit Green House Herbal Clinic website ww w.greenhouseherbalclinic .com. This treatment is a miracle!!

Cheeve A.
Cheeve A.8 months ago

My mother was diagnosed with ALS in May 2016. Her doctor put her on riluzole, letting her know there was no cure but the medication might provide her a few more months of delayed symptoms. ALS progresses at different rates and affects different body parts first. My mother, being 73 at the time, fell into a category of what they call "fast progression" (older female). Her arms weakened first, then her hands, her mouth, and throat, and finally her lungs. Throughout her two-and-a-half-year ordeal, she was able to walk with assistance nothing was really working to help her condition.I took her off the riluzole (with the doctor’s knowledge) and started her on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis herbal formula i ordered from Health Herbal Clinic, her symptoms totally declined over a 5 weeks use of the ALS disease natural herbal formula. She's now almost 75 and doing very well, the disease is totally reversed!! Visit there website www. healthherbalclinic. net

Julianne R
Julianne R9 months ago


I was diagnosed of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) in summer of 2012, my symptoms started out with a "foot drop" on my left foot, from there my left leg lost all muscle tone followed by slurred speech and inability to eat without getting choked, strangled, and coughing. My neurologist prescribed me some medications to help my symptoms but the medications did no good and their side effects were too severe. In 2015 i started on NewLife Herbal Clinic ALS Herbal formula treatment, i read alot of positive reviews on their success rate with the ALS Herbal treatment and i immediately started on the treatment. Just 11 weeks into the ALS Herbal formula treatment I had great improvements with my coordination, speech, breathing and muscle movements. I have basically gone stronger than i'd thought i could ever be again, visit NewLife Herbal Clinic official website www. newlifeherbalclinic. com or email info@ newlifeherbalclinic. com. The fatigue and general muscle weakness had also declined, this treatment is nothing less of a miracle!

Julianne Regan

Kamryn M.
Kay M5 years ago


Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W5 years ago

I thought Lou Gehrig was the discoverer, not a patient. :-(

Joe R.
Joe R5 years ago

Thanks for posting.

Susan A.
Susan A5 years ago

Thanks for the interesting article...

Jane R.
Jane R7 years ago

His name was Lou Gehrig, right? The disease was named after him, right? Therefore he had "Lou Gehrig's Disease", right?

Estelita A.
Estelita atti7 years ago


Kathy M.
Kathy M7 years ago

Yes that is Gary Cooper playing Lou Gehrig in the clip.My Dad always talked about him and all the other greats like the babe and ty cob.I feel almost like I knew them.