Last week, HBO’s Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel explored the potential link between head injuries and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Bernard Goldberg mentioned that 14 former NFL players have developed the condition more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a fatal illness that ordinarily strike only one in 100,000 members of the population.
It’s unknown whether former NFL fullback Kevin Turner is one of the 14 to whom Goldberg referred, but Turner is the latest former NFL player to be diagnosed with the disease.
Turner spent eight years in the NFL, starting his career as a third-round pick of the Patriots in 1992. After three years in New England, Turner played five years with the Eagles. He appeared in 106 career games, starting 66 of them.
But did Turner or former NFL running back Steve Smith or former NFL linebacker Wally Hilgeberg or even Gehrig himself actually have Lou Gehrig’s Disease? As our brethren at HardballTalk.com pointed out last week, folks who develop ALS as a result of head injuries may not actually have ALS, but a condition that mimics its debilitating and, eventually, deadly symptoms.
Strangely, the Real Sports item doesn’t mention the possibility that the players actually may have had an acquired condition that operates like ALS. Though it very well may be a distinction without a difference, the emerging trend is that head injuries not only can create personality changes and long-term cognitive impairments. They also can kill, in one of the most torturous and cruel ways possible, with the brain retaining its ability to remain aware of the slow but inevitable collapse of the body’s ability to function.