By: Allan M. Siegel
A year ago, Tim Shaw was a specials-teams standout and linebacker with the Tennessee Titans. This year, he's battling ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a debilitating and progressive neurological disease also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Shaw isn't the first former NFL player to be diagnosed with ALS, but his story has made national headlines, as his statement about being diagnosed surfaced during the Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon.
The Ice Bucket Challenge is a fundraising challenge to raise awareness about ALS and money for the ALS Association. This summer, the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral, with thousands of videos being posted, including numerous videos of celebrities, politicians, and athletes. The challenge involves participants nominating others to have a bucket of ice water poured on their heads or else donate to the ALS Association, usually within 24 hours.
The Ice Bucket Challenge has created national buzz about ALS, but in the media frenzy, many forget how serious and life-altering the disease can be. ALS is characterized as a disease that attacks the nerve cells that control voluntary movement. For the most part, the brain continues to function normally, while the body's ability to operate slowly declines. According to the ALS Association, only 25% of people diagnosed with the disease – most between the ages of 40 and 70 – are alive five years later. When Tim Shaw announced his diagnosis and battle with the disease on Tuesday August, 20th, he put a face to ALS.
Shaw's story is also raising questions about the connection between ALS and sports-related concussions. Several other former football players have also been diagnosed with ALS, or with early signs of the disease. The ALS Association has stated that it is currently unclear which activities may be risk factors, but has acknowledged that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a neurodegenerative disorder linked to concussions – does share symptoms with ALS. Forbes has noted that there is evidence football players may be four times more likely to have ALS than the general male population. A
CDC report also showed higher ALS incidence rates among former NFL athletes.
According to some legal experts, Shaw may now qualify for compensation under the proposed NFL concussion settlement.
ALS is a tremendously difficult disease for victims and their loved ones. As a proven brain injury law firm, Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. supports Shaw and the Ice Bucket Challenge in raising awareness and donations for everyone affected by ALS.