Overview: ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease

In general, ALS is a slowly progressive neurodegenerative disease producing weakness of the muscles. Almost any part of the body can be affected, including the muscles of the arms and legs, as well as those that control either speech, swallowing, or breathing. Some patients may also have minor either emotional, behavioral, or thinking problems. Most patients with ALS have fasciculations, which are involuntary painless muscle twitches. ALS patients have changes in their skin, making them resistant to getting bed sores. Eye movements and sensation are typically preserved. Pain is usually either nonexistent or minimal. Persons with ALS are typically in their 5th or 6th decade of life. Both men and women are affected. Most often this disease occurs for unknown reasons (sporadic ALS), while about 5-10% of the time, the disease is inherited (familial ALS).

Everyone knows that Lou, the great "Iron Horse" of baseball, had ALS. But why was his wife's name placed in honor above his? The answer is part of MDA history.

After Gehrig learned he had ALS and retired from the New York Yankees 1939, ending his record streak of 2,130 consecutive games played, Eleanor was his chauffeur, nurse, nutritionist and constant companion. She exercised with him, steadied his fingers when he signed his name, and helped him take his daily injections of vitamin E. So high was the Gehrigs' faith in vitamin E that Eleanor used to prepare a special salad for Lou made with common garden grass that she cut from the park because she was told it was rich with the vitamin. Even with salad dressing, the concoction made Gehrig gag. It didn't stop the progression, and in 1941, Lou Gehrig lost his life to ALS.