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Ex-NFL player Kevin Turner has ALS: “Football had something to do with it”

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Kevin Turner played fullback for the Patriots and Eagles for eight seasons and was a well-respected member of both teams, winning the Eagles’ Ed Block Courage Award in 1996 after coming back from an injury-plagued 1995 season.

But Turner is now afflicted with an illness that no one can come back from, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the incurable disorder known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. And he says he believes brain damage suffered on the football field caused it.

Football had something to do with it,” Turner told ESPN.com. “I don’t know to what extent, and I may not ever know. But there are too many people I know that have ALS and played football in similar positions. They seem to be linebackers, fullbacks, strong safeties. Those are big collision guys.”

Recent research has suggested that brain damage suffered in sports may cause ALS, or a disorder with nearly identical symptoms. Turner says now that if he had known what would become of his life, he wouldn’t have played football at all.

“If they would have come to me and said, ‘I’ve seen the future. This is what happens.’ Of course, I would stop playing immediately,” Turner said. “But, as we all know, nobody can see the future.”

What we can see is that the future will surely include other football players suffering from similarly dire health problems.

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43 Responses to “Ex-NFL player Kevin Turner has ALS: “Football had something to do with it””
  1. chapnastier says: Mar 17, 2011 10:36 AM

    Well then I guess its time to throw in the towel on all sports. They have too much risk for athletes and it has become clear that congress must ban all competitive contact sports.

  2. jimmysee says: Mar 17, 2011 10:38 AM

    This is terrible news. No one asks for or deserves this. Situations like this is why it is critical for the league to focus on player safety.

  3. chatham10 says: Mar 17, 2011 10:38 AM

    I’m very sorry to read where Turner has ALS. I just do not understand why anyone would want to play in the NFL because of everything that I have heard since the talks broke off, a high union lawyer said “Pash of the NFL lied”, Turner of the Chargers said. “Goodell is a liar and Peterson feels like a slave and Brees says “do not drink the kool aid the owners are saying”. I think all these players should take their college degrees and walk away from the NFL where they won’t be lied to, will not be slaves and do not have to drink the kool aid. The one hitch is “you have to have a college degree, you will not make the millions that you do for six months of work and the fans will no long chant your name and drink your kool aid, good luck and God speed.

  4. biggerballz says: Mar 17, 2011 10:43 AM

    wow captain obvious, no one knew football can hurt you. Maybe if you weren’t too busy counting your money you would of retired early before being messed up for life.

  5. facebook.com/joesimmonscomic AKA Slow Joe (Bucs fan) says: Mar 17, 2011 10:48 AM

    I see a future with improved pads and concussion-preventative headgear.

    I just don’t see the basic tenets of blocking and tackling changing. That IS football.

  6. gazinkus says: Mar 17, 2011 10:49 AM

    My grandmother died of ALS. As far as I know, she never played safety or any other position in the NFL. But she DID like to garden, and was around fertilizer quite a bit.

    Some studies have shown a link between fertilizer and ALS. Guess what? Football players spend a lot of their time on fertilized patches of grass.

    Maybe someone should look into THAT.

  7. godofwine330 says: Mar 17, 2011 10:52 AM

    I am sorry to hear that he is stricken with an incureable disease like ALS. I remember hearing of former Ravens player and current member of the Ravens front office OJ Brigance and his battle with the disease. And the fact that I lost a friend last night makes the “life is short” saying mean a little bit more.

  8. 3octaveFart says: Mar 17, 2011 10:53 AM

    But don’t ask for any more money for retirees health benefits, lest you incur the wrath of the knee-jerk public that will simply dismiss you and call you “greedy”.

  9. biggerballz says: Mar 17, 2011 10:54 AM

    Seriously players don’t realize you get paid so much money because you are whoring your body out. Geez why do you think someone pays you a millions to play something that feels like multiple car accidents every week. I don’t feel sorry because you chose this and you didn’t complain collecting all that money. You reap what you sow.

  10. ditkasmustache says: Mar 17, 2011 10:54 AM

    biggerballz says: Mar 17, 2011 10:43 AM

    wow captain obvious, no one knew football can hurt you. Maybe if you weren’t too busy counting your money you would of retired early before being messed up for life.

    ————————

    There is a saying that goes “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than opening one’s mouth and removing all doubt”

    The above post from “biggerballz” certainly qualifies.

  11. jdl1325 says: Mar 17, 2011 10:55 AM

    @ biggerballz

    Really?! Because those fullbacks in the mid-90′s were really just swimming in the dough.

  12. bluvayner says: Mar 17, 2011 10:56 AM

    While the cause of ALS is not know with 100% certainty, most scientists believe that it’s a genetic disorder, that is often passed down through families.

  13. fin72 says: Mar 17, 2011 10:57 AM

    biggerballz says:
    Mar 17, 2011 10:43 AM
    wow captain obvious, no one knew football can hurt you. Maybe if you weren’t too busy counting your money you would of retired early before being messed up for life.

    _________________________________

    Commissioner Goodell, is that you?

  14. waynefontes says: Mar 17, 2011 11:03 AM

    The man has ALS. You don’t beat ALS.

    He said football had something to do with it, and I believe that it probably did.

    From what I read, it doesn’t seem like he’s whining, he’s telling it like it is. Not like he’s suing the NFL or anything.

  15. karlpilkington says: Mar 17, 2011 11:03 AM

    biggerballz says:
    Mar 17, 2011 10:43 AM
    wow captain obvious, no one knew football can hurt you. Maybe if you weren’t too busy counting your money you would of retired early before being messed up for life.

    Biggerballz, let me guess.. you were a great High School player and…… well that is about it. The guy did not ask for this. You have a hater mentality. Stop being so jealous that he made more money in 1 year than you would make in your life. The guy is not blaming anyone, he just said the contact had something to do with his situation. SHEEEEESH some people.

  16. peytonwantsaflag says: Mar 17, 2011 11:07 AM

    come on, this is ridiculous- I feel bad for the guy but, like anyone, he’s just looking for a reason. There’s no proof that football causes ALS – I knew a guy that had it and he never played a down of football in his life (he was tall, maybe he got it from hitting the top of too many door jams.)

    Also – I hate to sound this cynical but PFT’s made me so – if football is the reason it certainly helps his chances in the no-doubt-from-his tone forthcoming lawsuit.

  17. drbob117 says: Mar 17, 2011 11:08 AM

    As an Eagkles fan, I was very sorry to hear about Turner’s condition, especially when this story came out 7 or 8 months ago. I guess PFT was busy that day. There were all kinds of articles where Turner said something like” Every doctor I go to tells me I have less time to live, so I’m going to stop going to doctors”. Where the heck were you guys?

  18. hobartbaker says: Mar 17, 2011 11:13 AM

    Of course football has something to do with it. That is why they call it Bronco Nagurski Disease.

  19. krow101 says: Mar 17, 2011 11:14 AM

    While this is all very sad… there’s no proof of any link between football and ALS. It’s crazy talk.

  20. jbcommonsense says: Mar 17, 2011 11:14 AM

    Very tough news for Mr. Turner and his family. I hope he will receive quality medical and neurological treatment for this terrible disease. This highlights the need for universal access to medical care for all Americans.

  21. nashvilletrojan says: Mar 17, 2011 11:19 AM

    gazinkus says:
    Mar 17, 2011 10:49 AM
    My grandmother died of ALS. As far as I know, she never played safety or any other position in the NFL. But she DID like to garden, and was around fertilizer quite a bit.

    Some studies have shown a link between fertilizer and ALS. Guess what? Football players spend a lot of their time on fertilized patches of grass.

    Maybe someone should look into THAT
    ================================

    Agree…..My Aunt died of ALS. I don’t wish that disease on anyone. It’s a slow process and a heartwrenching thing to watch.

  22. biggerballz says: Mar 17, 2011 11:23 AM

    @karlpilkington

    No i did not, because my parents knew it was dangerous. Look I don’t care that he made tons of money, good for him. But I’m tired of people complaining that they got hurt because of football and looking to blame the league. In the 80′s and 90′s everyone knew football was dangerous, especially fullback. Now he has to live with that, I just don’t feel sorry for him thats all.

  23. peytonwantsaflag says: Mar 17, 2011 11:26 AM

    “This highlights the need for universal access to medical care for all Americans.”

    —————————————————

    No it doesn’t – It doesn’t highlight any such thing. If anything I can make the opposite point – with universal health care people will spend way too much money trying to prolong the inevitable. You know what? people die, insurance, universal or otherwise can’t prevent that.

  24. pftmz says: Mar 17, 2011 11:28 AM

    If playing football causes ALS, then rapping causes getting shot to death. ‘ Correlation does not imply causation.’

  25. JSpicoli says: Mar 17, 2011 11:36 AM

    Sad story. I had an Aunt die from it.

    That said, there is no proof of football or anything in particular causing it. For MDS to jump in and make conclusions like “What we can see is that the future will surely include other football players suffering from similarly dire health problems” is absolutely premature and, well, asinine.

  26. tinopuno says: Mar 17, 2011 11:47 AM

    chapnastier says: Mar 17, 2011 10:36 AM

    Well then I guess its time to throw in the towel on all sports. They have too much risk for athletes and it has become clear that congress must ban all competitive contact sports.

    ——————————————————

    You’re such a clever wit!

    Your many friends must find you greatly entertaining! But with all your social obligations, how do you ever find the time to post a comment or two on virtually every PFT thread.

    HINT: There is a real world with actual humans outside your room. Try going outside every now and again.

  27. pftard says: Mar 17, 2011 11:55 AM

    This is merely speculation. Anyone that derrives such an affliction will ask ‘why me’ & ‘how does this happen’.

    There’s no connection here and he’s looking for what might make sense to him. It’s irresponsible to publicize that playing football is a realistic possible reason. While I am sypathetic to anyone whe gets a dibilitating ailment.., it’s sad to see the media play this angle as a legitimate story.

  28. maddog111 says: Mar 17, 2011 11:56 AM

    I feel awful for him, and I’m not saying he’s wrong, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of another NFL player who has ever contracted ALS. Anybody have any info on this?

  29. gazinkus says: Mar 17, 2011 12:17 PM

    @nashvilletrojan:

    Agree. ALS is a horrible way to die. It’s heart-wrenching watching someone you love – or even someone you don’t know – go that way. I’ve decided that if I ever contract it, ALS won’t kill me. I will.

    But, at the same time, some people have lived years with it. Stephen Hawking has had it for what, 30 years?

    @bluvayner:

    If it’s genetic, how do you explain that exactly one of my relatives has ever contracted it? Everyone else has died of other causes. And there are no living relatives with it, either.

  30. gordongetgo says: Mar 17, 2011 12:21 PM

    Steve Smith (another ex-FB – Raiders) also had ALS. Steve was the focus of a Real Sports that spent time exploring how toxic proteins that form after brain trauma may cause Lou Gehrig’s disease. Also, former Vikings safety Orlando Thomas. I think there are 14 or 15 cases where we know of former NFL players having ALS.

  31. theandy59 says: Mar 17, 2011 12:35 PM

    ALS isn’t a football thing, but there have been some studies linking ALS to repeated exposure to head trauma, which IS a football thing. Knowing someone who had ALS without ever playing football doesn’t nullify a possible link. I know people who died of lung cancer who never smoked, and I know people who smoked that lived into their 80′s, none of which means that smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer (a fairly well established scientific fact).

    Kevin Turner was a very good football player known for his blocking and pass catching ability. I can assure you that in NFL terms, the guy was never paid big money. I’m sad for him; he’s received a death sentence that can’t be commuted. I’m sadder still for those on here who’ve posted their lack of compassion for a guy facing a terrible disease like ALS – yours is an existence I wouldn’t wish on anyone, living without a soul.

  32. kingjoe1 says: Mar 17, 2011 12:42 PM

    It is convienent to name the biggest pockets as cause of your disease. While a number of NFL players may have ALS, to relate head trauma and ALS, I would like to see if similar numbers are found with ex-boxers and ex-hockey players.

  33. thebaronvb says: Mar 17, 2011 12:42 PM

    maddog11 – one does not “get or contract” ALS. it’s a genetic disorder.

    I am not sure I agree with Turner’s assertion that football contributed to his disease. I find it hard believe that playing football made him more likely to suffer from ALS. One can clearly draw conclusion over concussion and brain damage, but ALS might be a reach.

    I wish him teh best as he deals with his struggle and disease, and hope he can keep it at bay.

  34. dempsey63 says: Mar 17, 2011 12:43 PM

    The 49ers had a couple of players who contracted ALS. They were convinced that it had something to do with the spreading of Milorganite (a fertilizer made from human waste) on their practice field. Players claimed to have found used condoms in the product. It makes for a compelling argument.

  35. bluvayner says: Mar 17, 2011 1:46 PM

    gazinkus says:
    Mar 17, 2011 12:17 PM
    @bluvayner:
    If it’s genetic, how do you explain that exactly one of my relatives has ever contracted it? Everyone else has died of other causes. And there are no living relatives with it, either.

    Gazinkus……I said that many scientists believe ALS is a genitic disorder that is SOMETIMES passed down in families. By genetic disorder, I meant that many patients with the disease have been found to have mutated genes. In the case of a genetic disorder, it doesn’t necessarily mean the you will pass the disease on to your children. It means that you were born with a ticking time bomb in your genetic makeup, that leaves you predestined to develop a certain disease at some point in your life.

  36. luckywi says: Mar 17, 2011 1:47 PM

    Personally, I thought PFT was populated by lawyers. I guess I was wrong. It’s populated by doctors. Thanks. Go back to the Mr. Coffeee machine.

  37. bluvayner says: Mar 17, 2011 1:50 PM

    hobartbaker says:
    Mar 17, 2011 11:13 AM
    Of course football has something to do with it. That is why they call it Bronco Nagurski Disease

    Hobartbaker……….You’re of course aware that Lou Gehrig was a football player at Columbia ?

  38. Kave Krew says: Mar 17, 2011 2:26 PM

    Kevin Turner was one of my favorite Patriot players…..blue collar, played hard and tough, and just did his job without complaint. Definitely a Parcells kind of guy.

    He certainly was one of those instrumental in changing the soft/loser mentality in Foxboro to what we see today. Wished the Pats had kept him…….

    I don’t interpret anything he is saying as whining, crying, complaining nor passing the blame to the game.

    Good luck to Kevin and his family

  39. angrycorgi says: Mar 17, 2011 3:30 PM

    Its very possible that Stephen Hawking’s ALS is also similar to what athletes are winding up with. He only tramatically truck his head once (that he recalss) on a fall down a flight of stairs. He has survived almost 50 years with the ailment (barely), but again…that was ONE tramatic strike…certain positions may suffer near-tramatic strikes more than once in a single game. There may be no way to fix this without removing ALL high-speed collisions from the game. Violent brain damage happens from the brain “bouncing” in the skull, and does not require a direct hit to the skull and will not always be fixed by improved head protection. I’m amazed that FBs are one of the lowest compensated positions, and yet they suffer just as much as safeties and linebackers. Something to think about in the next CBA, if you ask me. The FB position needs to become a 3-man rotating platoon if they want to reduce the injury probability later in life. They should seriously consider an upper limit on snaps allowed to a single FB/FS/LB. Increase the roster by 5-6 spots and lower the wear and tear on the most vulnerable positions.

  40. inconsonance says: Mar 17, 2011 3:49 PM

    krow101 says: “there’s no proof of any link between football and ALS. It’s crazy talk.”

    A simple blood test could test Mr. Turner for genetic markers known to be associated with ALS. If said test were to be performed and come back negative, then one must, through a combination of process of elimination and cogent thought, begin to make the connection between repetitive injury to the head and neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS. The prevalence of such diseases in professional athletes, specifically football players, should be reason enough to recognize that a correlation exists, but it appears some among us are unwilling or unable to come to that conclusion.

  41. bwisnasky says: Mar 17, 2011 6:04 PM

    bluvayner says:
    Mar 17, 2011 1:50 PM
    hobartbaker says:
    Mar 17, 2011 11:13 AM
    Of course football has something to do with it. That is why they call it Bronco Nagurski Disease

    Hobartbaker……….You’re of course aware that Lou Gehrig was a football player at Columbia ?

    ——————————-

    Actually, if you watch the Real Sports segment on Steve Smith, they talk about how there is some evidence that Lou Gehrig himself suffered from repeated concussions…. It was actually a truly enlightening piece. For those that are convinced it’s a genetic disorder, just because there may be genetics involved, it doesn’t mean there can’t be some other sort of causal effect from outside influences. The guy that was contacted by Dave Duersons family after Duerson’s suicide is the same guy that is looking into the connection between concussions and ALS. He’s a brain specialist doing very ground breaking work in the field. People really need to inform themselves before stating their opinions…..

  42. stonefly123 says: Oct 20, 2011 2:19 AM

    I played highschool fb with KT. I was a scrub, he was a star. One of the finest people i’ve ever met. A truly gifted ball player who exemplified a humbleness on the field and off. A true champion. Ive heard he has three young children now, is a big part of the YMCA’s success in the Prattville area and will donate his brain upon death to advance medicine for this illness. I also heard from one of my family members that most people close to him never even knew he had the illness, including coach Gene Stallings…..always true to his demeanor. Some of these comments make me sad to be part of the same human race. If you truly understood the future that awaits him or ever spent one snap on the same field with him you would be too. Hang in there KT and God Bless You. Fight brother. Fight!

  43. jbcommonsense says: Oct 20, 2011 9:38 AM

    Of note.

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