Lou Gehrig and the History of ALS

ALS was identified as a specific disease by Jean Martin Charcot, a pioneering French neurologist working in Paris in 1869s, and thus is still sometimes called Charcot’s disease in France.

lou gehrig and wifeIt wasn’t until 1939 that Lou Gehrig brought national and international attention to the disease. Lou Gehrig was a famous baseball player for the New York Yankees. He played in more consecutive baseball games than any other player, until his record was broken by Cal Ripken, Jr., in 1995.

Throughout his career, Gehrig was a symbol of indestructibility — the “iron man” of baseball. On May 2, 1939, he pulled himself out of the lineup of players “for the good of the team.” He was not playing well and knew that something was physically wrong. Within a few months, Gehrig was diagnosed with ALS. He died two years later. To this day, the disease is still most closely associated with his name, often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”

Lou Gehrig SpeechRelatively little progress was made in understanding ALS until the 1990s, when there were major research efforts with encouraging results.

Source: ALS Association – Texas Chapter

A Long Swim is dedicated to funding collaborative ALS research.

ALS occurs throughout the world regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status.

Often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease for the New York Yankees icon, ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that slowly robs people of the use of their muscles, and so their ability to walk, speak and breathe.  Most people live only two to five years after diagnosis.  Approximately 1,000 people in Illinois and 35,000 people in the US are living with ALS at any given time; and a new person is diagnosed with ALS and a person dies with ALS every 90 minutes.  

ALS occurs throughout the world regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status.  It most commonly occurs between the ages of 40 and 70, though it can strike at any age.  It is likely that there are several different causes of ALS.  In about 10% of the cases, ALS is caused by genetic factors and are referred to as “familial ALS.”  The remaining 90% are considered to be sporadic ALS, and there is no known cause.  

ALS is a disease that has had a profound effect on Doug McConnell’s family.  He lost his father to ALS in 2006, after which other members of his family were diagnosed and are currently battling the disease.  By using marathon swimming, which requires the use of all of the muscles in the body, Doug and A Long Swim© have brought awareness and have raised more then $350,000 for ALS research.

A cornerstone of the work of A Long Swim  is the support of three research and patient care clinics at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.  Northwestern’s researchers lead the way in the push toward new treatments, therapies and the quest for the eventual cure for ALS.