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New York Times: Lou Gehrig May Not Have Had Lou Gehrig’s Disease?

This was one time when the headline was okay, but the story that followed had our heads spinning. “Study Says Brain Trauma Can Mimic Lou Gehrig’s Disease” is a story that was troubling on a number of fronts. It reported on a study which at the time had not yet been published suggesting that some “athletes and soldiers given a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis…might have been catalyzed by injuries only now becoming understood: concussions and other brain trauma.”

To be clear — and please don’t anyone miss or miscontrue this point — this is an important and fascinating area of research. But the story did not exhibit the best of health/medical/science journalism:

1. It was based on a study of 3 people. (The ALS Association says there are up to 30,000 people in the U.S. living with ALS.)

2. It stated, “Lou Gehrig might not have had Lou Gehrig’s disease.” (No evidence for this was provided. He also may not have been a great left-handed hitter. That may have been an optical illusion.)

3. It said this could “perhaps lead toward new pathways for a cure.” (After a suggestive finding in just three people?)

4. The story later says, “The finding’s relevance to Gehrig is less clear.” (Hedging already after a bold earlier statement in the story.)

5. But just a few paragraphs later, the story says, “The new finding…suggests that Gehrig might not have had (ALS).” (Head spinning yet?) Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

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