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Boston Univ., Veterans Affairs find sports brain trauma may cause disease mimicking ALS
Date:8/17/2010

cluding three players from the 1964 San Francisco 49ers who died from ALS. Based on the number of retired NFL players with ALS, it is estimated that the risk is at least 8 times higher than in the adult male population. Among Veterans with a history of head injuries, their risk of ALS was 2.3 times higher than normal, and Gulf War Veterans have a twofold increased risk. In fact, since 2008, the US Department of Veterans Affairs has considered ALS as a presumptively compensable illness for all veterans. The discovery of this new ALS-like disease by the BU CSTE investigators suggests that one possible reason for the increased risk of clinically diagnosed ALS in veterans and in contact sport athletes may be the exposure to repetitive head trauma, including concussions, subconcussive blows and blast injuries.

These findings raise the question of whether head injuries may have contributed to Lou Gehrig's motor neuron disease, and whether he also suffered from CTEM. Gehrig, nicknamed the "Iron Horse," played football at Columbia University before becoming a legendary member of the New York Yankees and playing in 2,036 consecutive games, a record that stood for more than 60 years. Gehrig suffered at least five documented concussions and was reported to have been knocked unconscious for five minutes after taking a pitch to the head while not wearing a helmet. He played the next day.

"When we read reports about cases of the disease being linked to specific activities or experiences, such as the increased risk associated with military service, or this one regarding professional athletes, we are reminded of just how complex of a disorder ALS is. We're hopeful that this new work may shed light on potentially exciting new possibilities for biomarker and therapy development," said Steve Perrin, PhD, CEO and Chief Scientific Officer of the ALS Therapy Development Institute.

Responding to these new findings, Hunt Batjer, MD and Richard Ellenbogen, MD, the
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Contact: Gina DiGravio
gina.digravio@bmc.org
617-638-8480
Boston University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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