Former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dwight Clark has been diagnosed with ALS.
Clark, who just turned 60 in January, announced Sunday night that he has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. According to the ALS Association’s official website, ALS is “a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.”
Clark, best known for hauling in “The Catch” from Joe Montana in the 1981 NFC Championship game, said he began experiencing symptoms in September 2015. His statement, released tonight, can be found here.
It reads in part:
While I’m still trying to wrap my head around the challenge I will face with this disease over the coming years, the only thing I know is that I’m going to fight like hell and live every day to the fullest.
In addition to losing strength in my left hand – which makes opening a pack of sugar or buttoning my shirt impossible – I have now experienced weakness in my right hand, abs, lower back and right leg. I can’t run, play golf or walk any distances. Picking up anything over 30 pounds is a chore. The one piece of good news is that the disease seems to be progressing more slowly than in some patients.
I’ve been asked if playing football caused this. I don’t know for sure. But I certainly suspect it did. And I encourage the NFLPA and the NFL to continue working together in their efforts to make the game of football safer, especially as it relates to head trauma.
ALS is a terminal disease, with most people surviving for three to five years after diagnosis, though timelines can vary depending on how the disease progresses in individuals.
Former NFL players Steve Gleason, O.J. Brigance and Tim Shaw have all been diagnosed with the disease in recent years.