Football Player's ALS Diagnosis Raises Fears of Connection to Sport

Yahoo HealthAugust 21, 2014

Tim Shaw, a special-teams ace and linebacker who played with the Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears and Tennessee Titans, announced on Tuesday that he is the latest former player to be stricken by the horrible disease. ”Hi, I am Tim Shaw. A year ago I was playing NFL football. I recently have been diagnosed with ALS,” Shaw said in his message to fans on the Titans’ official website. 

Per the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) — otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease — is a “progressive disease that attacks the nerve cells that control voluntary movement.” In essence, your brain functions normally while your body progressively ceases to operate.

The cause of the disease is unknown, and there is no known cure.

ALS has received widespread attention the past few weeks with the viral Ice Bucket Challenge that has swept the country via social media. The former Penn State standout, who is only 30 years old, took his turn at receiving a cold shower for a good cause.

"I am here today to stand up and fight with all of you against this disease," Shaw said. "I want to challenge the Tennessee Titans organization, Coach [James] Franklin and the Penn State football team and my Clarencevill [Michigan] community. Let’s do this."

On Tuesday afternoon, the Titans accepted Shaw’s challenge — oh, did they ever — en masse. And with pride, you’d have to imagine.

That’s now four recent former NFL players — including Steve Gleason, Kevin Turner and O.J. Brigance — who have been diagnosed with ALS in the past seven years. Now the biggest question becomes if there is a discernable connection between playing football and being diagnosed with ALS.

According to Forbes, there is compelling evidence that football players might be four times more likely to have ALS than the general male population. The CDC found in a 2012 study that the incidence rate rose from fewer than two cases out of nearly 3,500 men to seven cases among former NFL players.

Shaw now qualifies for the maximum benefit of $5 million dollars in the proposed NFL concussion settlement with the former players, which sports injury litigator Paul Anderson tweeted about after Shaw announced his diagnosis.

Brigance, Turner and Gleason have been active advocates for raising awareness about the horribly crippling and debilitating disease, especially in NFL circles. Shaw now joins their fight.

The fear is that other players might be vulnerable to ALS because of the violent nature of the game. The Ice Bucket Challenge might have reached the oversaturation point for some people who have rolled their eyes at the social-media stunt. But if it raises money and awareness, then we sincerely hope that it will continue on until there is enough money to find a cure — for everyone who has fallen victim to the disease.

Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! 

This article originally appeared on Yahoo Sports.