Was Lou Gehrig the victim of repeated head trauma?
In the past week, hundreds of news organizations, including the Wall Street Journal, have speculated as to whether “The Iron Horse” really was the first victim of a disease that still bears his name. Or, instead, was Gehrig just one of the earliest athletes to exhibit a deteriorating brain condition now being linked to repeated head trauma?
A study published in this week’s Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology seems to point in that direction, escalating concerns that multiple blows to the head can result long-term traumatic brain injuries.
As Shirley S. Wang points out in the Wall Street Journal, the debate over whether or not repeated concussions and other head trauma can lead to brain disease has been raging for years.
The Boston University researchers who conducted the study looked at the brains and spinal cords of 12 former athletes, all deceased. Of the 12, three had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). Each of the athletes studied had also been subject to multiple concussions.
While further research is needed before a final conclusion is made, the researchers found enough evidence of a link between traumatic brain injury and degenerative brain conditions to warrant that exploration.
In addition to Lou Gehrig’s disease, researchers believe that repeated head trauma may be linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.