A year ago at this time, ex-NFL linebacker Tim Shaw was in training camp fighting for a spot on the Titans’ roster. Today, he announced that he has ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Shaw announced that he’s been diagnosed with the disease during his ALS ice bucket challenge video.
Shaw’s video is being widely circulated around the web today because he both has ALS and is a former football player. Why is that combination relevant? The latest research, like this study from the American Academy of Neurology, suggests that NFL players are at a higher risk of dying from brain cell-damaging diseases like ALS and Alzheimer’s.
From the study:
“The research found that professional football players in this study were three times more likely to die as a result of diseases that damage brain cells compared to the general population. A player’s risk of death from Alzheimer’s disease or ALS was almost four times higher than the general population.”
You can add CTE – the disease that led to Junior Seau’s suicide—and dementia to the list of brain conditions NFL players put themselves at a higher risk for.
Public awareness about the severe brain injuries brought on by playing football has only risen in recent years. As Deadspin writer Barry Petchesky notes, the NFL will soon pay millions to settle a lawsuit claiming the league hid information from players about the medical conditions induced by repeated brain traumas. The league has also fought tooth and nail to avoid covering the medical costs of many former players suffering from brain conditions triggered by football. This, more than anything else, is why Roger Goodell’s ALS ice bucket challenge video was widely viewed as a cheap PR stunt.