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I had heard rumors that ex-49er Dwight Clark was being tested for ALS about a year or so ago. Among the former NFL players diagnosed with ALS are O.J. Brigance (diagnosed 2007; still alive); Steve Gleason (diagnosed 2011; still alive); Glenn Montgomery (diagnosed 1997; died 1998) and Kevin Turner (diagnosed 2010; died 2016). Golfer Jeff Julian was diagnosed in 2001 and died in 2004. I would be remiss not to mention Mark Laesch – he was not a professional golfer, but he did bring statistics into collegiate golf, and that was a significant achievement. He also had a sister, father and uncle all die of ALS. I wrote software called GGOLF specifically for Bruce Edwards, Tom Watson’s caddie from 1973 to 1989 1992 to 2003. For reasons I never had the courage to ask about, Bruce declined rapidly from a diagnosis in 2003 to death in 2004.

One complication with ALS is there are two distinct classes – for lack of a better word – sporadic and familial. As things stand now, no (zero) genes associated with sporadic. There are currently 12 genes implicated in familial ALS: Cdorf72 (30-40%); SOD1 (15-20%); TARDBP (5%) and FUS (5%) are the heavy hitters. But there isn’t general agreement about how many types of ALS there are. Given the apparent disparities among sufferers, it is hard to avoid concluding there has to be at least one co-factor: pesticide exposure is one suspect, and there are some flaviviruses that may be influential. To use an inadequate word, there are also super-tragic variants of ALS – one is a juvenile onset (10-15 years old) and the other is early adult (20s to early 30s).

Not sure what I would do if someone with ALS showed up and wanted to be a student. Since we are in the courage business, if they had the courage to show up, I’d teach. WHAT to teach is the hard part.

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