As videos of celebrities and athletes performing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge continue to circulate around the Internet and social media, people affected by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) can take solace in the amount of awareness and research funds this campaign has raised. While Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter, and even former President George W. Bush have all participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge, a video submitted by ex-NFL player Tim Shaw could be considered the most memorable after the former linebacker for the Tennessee Titans revealed his ALS diagnosis just before completing the challenge.
After upending a Gatorade bucket full of ice water over his head, Shaw complied with the second part of the challenge by nominating players and coaches from the Titans organization and Penn State University football team, as well as his hometown of Clarenceville, Mich. Fellow NFL alumni diagnosed with ALS include New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason, Baltimore Ravens linebacker O.J. Brigance, and Philadelphia Eagles fullback Kevin Turner, ABC News reported.
ALS is commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in memory of the New York Yankees Hall of Fame first basemen Lou Gehrig, who died of ALS in 1941. A recent study published in the journal Neurology revealed that NFL players are four times more likely to die as the result of ALS or Alzheimer’s disease compared to members of the general public. Furthermore, researchers involved with this study concluded that positions in the speed category, quarterback, running back, halfback, fullback, wide receiver, tight end, defensive back, safety, and linebacker, were at a higher risk than strength positions, offensive and defensive lineman, due to their overall risk of sustaining a concussion.
“Although the results of our study do not establish a cause-effect relationship between football-related concussion and death from neurodegenerative disorders, they do provide additional support for the finding that professional football players are at an increased risk of death from neurodegenerative causes,” Everett J. Lehman, occupational epidemiologist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in Cincinnati, said in a statement.
According to the ALS Association, two out of every 100,000 people are diagnosed with ALS each year. There are currently upward of 22,600 Americans living with ALS, making it the most commonly diagnosed neuromuscular disease. Although many people associate ALS with a genetic link, the true cause of the disease is unknown and people with no history of the disease are still at risk. ALS tends to affect older people, with the mean age of onset falling between the age of 55 and 65, and it's more frequently diagnosed in men more than women.