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Did Lou Gehrig have his namesake disease?

August 18, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Did baseball great Lou Gehrig never actually have the disease that bears his name?That question was raised in a new study which claims some people may be incorrectly diagnosed as having Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as ALS.

Scientists say some patients who have suffered head injuries develop a condition that mimics Lou Gehrig's disease.

Dr. Ann McKee, a neurology professor at Boston University, found toxic proteins in the spinal cords of three athletes who had suffered head injuries and were later diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. The same toxic proteins were also found in the brains of athletes with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is linked to head injuries that cause abnormal behavior, dementia and cognitive decline.

However, the protein was not found in the spines of those with CTE. The findings suggest that the three athletes suffer from a disease similar to - but not exactly the same as - ALS. McKee and her colleagues are calling the new disease chronic traumatic encephalomyopathy (CTEM).

The BU authors say head injuries from baseball and playing college football may have contributed to Gehrig's motor neuron disease - which could have been (CTEM) instead of ALS - the disease which bears the New York Yankee's Hall of Famer's name.

The findings, announced Tuesday, are to be published in September's issue of the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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