SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Legendary San Francisco 49er wide receiver Dwight Clark says he has Lou Gehrig’s disease and suspects playing football might have caused the illness.
Clark announced Sunday on Twitter that he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that attacks cells that control muscles.
The former San Francisco 49er great linked to a post on his personal blog detailing his ALS diagnosis, but the site crashed Sunday night, apparently from an overflow of traffic.
He went on to say that after months of treatment, he was finally diagnosed.
“There is no test that will positively diagnose you with ALS. You have to eliminate the possibility of all other diseases and disorders and then wait to see what additional symptoms you develop,” Clark said.
In the statement, Clark said he visited six neurologists and three ALS specialists in addition to receiving treatment for B12 deficiency, a condition that can mirror the symptoms of ALS.
Clark says he’s been asked if his football career caused his ALS. He says, “I don’t know for sure. But I certainly suspect it did.” He encourages the NFL and the players’ association to work together in making football safer.
The 60-year-old Clark says he’s lost significant strength in his left hand and also has weakness in his right hand, midsection, lower back and right leg. He says he “can’t run, play golf or walk any distances” and that “picking up anything over 30 pounds is a chore.” He adds “that the disease seems to be progressing more slowly than in some patients.”
Several of Clark’s former colleagues and teammates issued statements to express their sadness at Clark’s diagnosis.
Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly posted on Instagram that he was “praying for [his] buddy.”
Current 49ers CEO Jed York released a statement that said he was “deeply saddened” upon learning of Clark’s diagnosis and that he would receive full, unconditional support from the team and staff.
“Many know Dwight as an iconic figure in 49ers lore, whose accomplishments on the field brought joy to fans around the world. Our organization is fortunate to know him more intimately as a wonderful man who has given so much of himself as an ambassador to the entire Bay Area. We will stand alongside Dwight and his family as they wage this battle,” York said.
Clark is best remembered for “The Catch,” where Joe Montana threw a game-winning touchdown to Clark with 51 seconds remaining in the game against the Cowboys that sent the 49ers to their first Super Bowl in 1981.