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Iron Horse

This entry is part 15 of 35 in the series ALS Experimental Theory

Lou Gehrig is a baseball hall of famer and his life is well docummented. Let´s see if I can find something which could support the ALS experimental theory in any way.

Lou Gehrig was probably the very first famous person and athlete diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – as we will see it is not just coincidence that athletes and professional sportsmen seem more prone to this disease. I need to say I did not know anything about Lou Gehrig sport career – all I knew was that his famous name gave the disease an alias, Lou Gehrig disease, used mainly in the United States. However as with practically everything I had to start digging. I bought three great books describing his life​1–3​. After some time I have decided to stop digging as the facts are very interesting and the biographies I can finish later. In below paragraphs I´m not going to describe his life but I will describe it from the view of ALS experimental theory based on toxicity, heavy metals, stress and infections. Please also note this is about searching for a needle in the haystack – I´m not stating anything in „must be true“ fashion, I only try to find correlations and I know what basically I need to look for.

On the internet you can read about theories that his diagnosis can be actually result of several hard „head shots“ which knocked him unconscious – you can compare this „wild theory“ with what I ended up with. Let´s start with zero trace counts.

Parents and early life

The first important area to screen from ALS perspective is the family environment. His father was a sheet metal worker (+1) – an ideal job to get in touch with lots of metals. His father was kind of unreliable, had often health issues (+2) and used to drink. In my earlier post I already described the role of heavy metals and how toxic work environments existed at the beginning of 20th century. His mother was strong and hard-working woman, often the only source of income, from what I read she was that type of caring but also cautious mother you need to love but who also makes things complex when child gets adult. She worked in laundry and she also cooked a lot for other richer families, she had more jobs. Life was not easy at that time, especially for these german immigrants. I also digged around the clothes and possible toxicity related to the used/dirty clothes as well as the toxicity related to the actual cleaning process.

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, cities and services expanded, and women’s employment outside the home increased, as did the size of the “middle classes” with substantial laundry needs. The diffusion of fashionable clothing to a larger segment of the population in the nineteenth century expanded the demand for laundry services. The growth of office employment—classic “white collar” work—led to increased demand for laundry services, as clean clothes were seen as a sign of status for such workers.​4​

By the nineteenth century, chlorine, detergent, water starches, and blue bleaches were in use. I´m not going to speculate or make statements how toxic could daily exposure to laundry work affect human health around 1900-1920 but my common sense is telling me it was not healthy work​5–7​ (+3).

Another thing which is in my opinion of high importance is the overal health in the family. Any problem or chronicity can be a trace – today it sometimes is one big sad story as people have their family trees full of cancer deaths (!). So here I need to mention Lou Gehrig would have three siblings. However the first child attempt of his parents ended with unwanted abortion and two sisters died as very small children (less than 1 year of age) – Anna and Sophia.  Very sad but in those times it was quite common – bacterial or viral infections everywhere, lack of good healthy food and clean environment were probably the most common causes of these premature deaths and parents tried to have many kids so that some survive. I need to mark this (+4). Heinrich and Christina Gehrig had luck because Lou Gehrig did survive all the child obstacles of those times. He was born as 14 pound boy! I thought my birth weight was little bit aboveaverage but 14 pounds is twice as my birth weight decades later.

From childhood to adult

Lou Gehrig was well built but as per the information in this great book​1​ he was kind of fat boy. This could signify early obtained liver infection because in that case liver don´t function optimally – it is said this organ fallbacks to strategy comprised of storing unprocessed toxicity arround waist, wrapped in fats and watter. Here I can make a point I was also somewhat fat as child. (+5). Over years he transformed his body through exercising into muscles – as young man he was already considered very handsome, well built, shoulders, arms, chest, strong thigs – an athletic man. His mother made special effort to feed him with everything despite the general lack. Lou was not starving at all – I think this extra care of his mother was the reason why he is known as one of the biggest  „mama boys“ among VIPs of all times. After the terrible experience with those other prematurely died kids his mother just tried to care as much as she could and he never forgot and did not care about what others say. Anyway the food consisting of lot of fatty meat is warning as well – I know everyone used to eat meat and many do today as well but it is about „ANDing“ everyhing together as ALS does not get developed overnight. In my opinion it is a time bomb which needs concurrence of many factors including those usual like eating meat. Don´t forget liver as factor! (+6). Another thing worth including is Lou started to like lifting weights and he liked all sports like football, baseball or basketball. Here again there is nothing wrong with lifting weights but don´t forget what today ALS stats talk about body builders as a class of people. Frequent stressing of body with weight lifting and exercising together with all the other factors affects your immune system. If the person is not healthy but has hidden infection it can become big problem after years (+7). As student he was not probably the brightest but he was ambitious. Anyway quite soon it appeared his future is sport. He was 6“1 200-210 pounds and attracted managers as a super hard hitter when playing baseball for Columbia college.

Sport PRO Career

Gehrig was great talent and he proved that over the years he played baseball. One thing which would be considered normal trait and thus absolutelly irrelevant is his famous shyness. However for me it is different. Gehrig was shy as kid and he was shy as adult, even in his 30s he was still very shy man, he lived with mother, he did not chase girls, he was so humble despite he was already MVP and baseball star. Normally I would leave it and just say: „Yeah, why not, some people are just shy“.  However before reading his story I did some digging around toxicity and strange shyness was mentioned as symptom of people who were to some degree intoxicated with heavy metals in brain (mercury) (+8).  It can be wild speculation but that is what I´m doing anway – ALS still is a mystery!  Being a professional athlete where lots of adrenaline is produced by the body (stressing body) is factor on its own (+9). Of course it has minor importance, but it is a co-factor and there is no doubt professional athletes seem more endangered with ALS, together with soldiers.

During the season 1927 Lou Gehrig was in great shape and many matches before the season end he had amazing stats. However at one point his performance suffered and caused slump. What happened? He became very worried about his mother health. She had issues with thyroid and was about to undergo a surgery. Did I mention that thyroid problem is a red flag? Please read the thyroid book from Anthony William. It often is serious symptom there is EBV or other virus infection present in the body and it is silently developing (+10). Once the infection is in family there is a very high chance everyone suffers with this slow, latent infection and only life and immune system power define people destiny.

Now we are getting to the reason why Lou Gehrig got the Iron Horse nickname. He played all matches for few first seasons and since he was really focused on the athletic aspects and proud he is in great shape he started to build an image of iron man. We already know he was hit to head few times but he suffered also many fractures, probably minor ones and he still played with it! (+11). And that is not everything! Besides fractures and various injuries he used to neglect infections like cold/flu and he insisted on playing regardless it (+12). In 1934 during a match he suffered sudden lumbago attack, sharp pain in the lower back which he described as „cold in his back“. This lower back issue is big red flag! This can be caused by viral infection which starts spreading from liver to lower back area and impacts the nerves there. It usually is not super serious if you do perceive your body singals and get relaxed – just a sharp lower back pain which soon disappears or becomes not sharp, but you still can feel discomfort in this area for years.  Gehrig was unable to continue in the match but in the following matches he was part of the lineup again. I would say this was real warning call the body was giving him „hey man, something is not right, slow down! Relax!“. However Gehrig did not listen (+13).  He fostered his image of iron man. Is that all? No. The last thing I would mention besides the injuries and infections is the X-Ray diagnostics which he also underwent due to those bone fractures and there is a description of repeated X-Rays taken within few days. The radiation is just another source of toxicity the body needs to absorp and if your food habits are not great (plenty of meat, white floor etc.) it can be problem (+14). As a side note I should mention how Anthony William stresses this X ray factor in context of traveling. People who travel a lot should be very careful as their luggage can collect already non-trivial radiation amount after all the scans during check-in process in airports. Luggage should be often replaced with new one as a precaution. Does that sound to you as a nonsense? I´m rather cautious here! There are milions of people who travel a lot but we need to realize how factors join together and what the last drop in our individual glass of resistance can be. Lou Gehrig travelled by trains but his injuries required X rays.

I was guessing these baseball stars had very little knowledge and interest regarding healthy food and life style. What I have found out was nothing but confirmation – hot dogs, steaks, stews, beer and whiskey, smoking. Babe Ruth was famous for his hot dog diet but Lou Gehrig probably had it similar– he did not smoke that much (but never gave up) and he was not a big drinker. He is described as a shy handsome man who intentionally avoided partying and women for which Babe Ruth was famous. However when he did take some alcohol he got drunk after two drinks as per the memoirs. This can be explained simply – he was not drinker so he was not used to alcohol and got drunk very quickly. However alternatively he could already have silent troubles with liver which is something of uttermost importance to me. Man of his size should really be more resistant to alcohol than described, no matter if he used to drink every other day or just very occasionally (+15).

Strange period

In 1939 Lou Gehrig retired after 2130 consecutive matches which was a record lasting for 50 years. Lou Gehrig really was Iron Horse. I would say this body overstressing habbit was a major factor why the terrible disease developed at the end. All those other complementary factors I marked could play significant role – they all contributed.  It is interesting to read about the symptoms which started appearing early 1938. He could recognize some troubles but he neglected and ignored everything, mainly because people had no idea what to do otherwise. He tried to play in spite of all issues because of the match streak – 2000 matches in row, then he planned for 2500 matches. He was loosing his famous power so he started to adapt his gameplay just to stay in the game. I really liked his story but his accent on his physical ability together with inability to rest and skip few matches here or there due to moving already owned record further and further most likely became reason for his dark destiny – very sad (+16). Important detail I spotted was that during the „strange period“ when he was not diagnosed yet, he used to have strange bruises and blisters on his hands. The theories mention he possibly tried for much stronger grip and thus he could develop those blisters – but that is kind of naive attempt. It does not explain bruises and it is not really realistic – that man played baseball for 10 continuous years and was famous for those „laser“ homers. His hands were used to holding bat I would tend to claim. Please remember these strange blisters and bruises (+17).

Summary

It may appear too ambitious to you as a reader but if I hoped to find something helpful then I found much much more, more then I hoped or expected. However in order to see these little details you need to have certain experience. If you don´t have it you may speculate on tighter grip or few head shots Lou Gehrig suffered – there had to be plenty players hit by ball for sure. It is all much more complex – small things added to small things, the known snow ball effect. If you have basic idea of probabality theory and you see below list of just 17 facts I identified in certain rush, then  you should not be that shocked (compound probabality; conditional probabality) – the resulting chance it can lead to ALS diagnosis is quite small, but not zero.

I have identified 17 traces which together theoretically could lead to ALS syndrome development in Lou Gehrig case. Some of them are quite standard but some are real red flags.

ALS development factor summary

  1. Father worked in toxic environment (sheet metal worker)
  2. Father suffered with health issues, possibly as a result of toxicity and his life style.
  3. Mother worked in possibly toxic environment (laundry)
  4. Lou Gehrig could have siblings – however his sisters died very early as infants, one abortion. Infection in the family/environment.
  5. Lou Gehrig was born as strong child but was chabby or little bit fat in early age
  6. Sub-optimal food composed from meat and fats since child age and throughout whole life.
  7. Lifting weights since young age which stresses body and affects immunity.
  8. Strange shyness – a trait he never overcame. Possible cause can be metals in brain.
  9. Professional athlete – not really health supporting profession; body is often overstressed and in Lou Gehrig case this has quite unique significance.
  10. Mother underwent thyroid surgery – thyroid is described as target of stealth viral infection in the 2nd stage.
  11. Head injuries and minor fractures – serious injury is a trigger as per the trigger theory, the virus detects weakened organism and strikes.
  12. Ignoring cold/flu like infections, not properly treated.
  13. Lower back pain injury, sign of spreading infection to the nervous system.
  14. X-Rays as source of radiation and further intoxication and immunity weakening.
  15. Low tolerance of alcohol, can be sign of improper liver function.
  16. Not only ignoring flu or injury but then also ignoring strange symptoms, body wake-up calls.
  17. Strange blisters and bruises appearing on his hands/arms.

I guess I have been very lucky, I must have been, to have dodged accidents and illnesses all of these years. Any player, no matter how sturdy he may be, must thank his lucky stars if he can play through ten seasons without any real mishap. Then I suppose I can thank my sturdy German ancestry for this iron constitution. Both my father and mother weigh over 200 pounds. We are a big-boned family. It has been my observation that it is usually the small-boned player who is liable to sufer injury.

— Lou Gehrig

References

  1. 1.
    Eig J. Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig. Simon & Schuster; 2006.
  2. 2.
    Joseph D. Last Ride of the Iron Horse: How Lou Gehrig Fought ALS to Play One Final Championship Season. Sunbury Press, Inc.; 2019.
  3. 3.
    Gaff AD. Lou Gehrig: The Lost Memoir. Simon & Schuster; 2020.
  4. 4.
  5. 5.
    Chlorine. Wikipedia. Accessed August 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorine
  6. 6.
    Is laundry detergent actually toxic. CleanCult. Accessed September 2020. https://www.cleancult.com/blog/is-laundry-detergent-actually-toxic/
  7. 7.
    Soap & Detergents History. CleaningInstitute. Accessed August 2020. https://www.cleaninginstitute.org/understanding-products/why-clean/soaps-detergents-history

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