Legendary San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dwight Clark, who is remembered for his 1982 NFC Championship game heroics when he hauled in “The Catch” from quarterback Joe Montana, revealed he has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
In a lengthy post shared Sunday, the two-time Super Bowl champion said he can’t be sure if his career in the NFL contributed to his diagnosis, but suspects it may be linked. He said he first began consulting with doctors several months ago after experiencing weakness in his left hand.
I wanted to share some unfortunate news: I have ALS. https://t.co/RqU0fFT98g— Dwight Clark (@DwightC87) March 20, 2017
“In September 2015, I started feeling weakness in my left hand,” 60-year-old Clark wrote. “I was mildly paying attention to it because since my playing days, I’ve constantly had pain in my neck. I was thinking it was related to some kind of nerve damage because it was just come and go.”
Clark, whose gallant touch down catch in the game's final seconds secured San Francisco’s win over the Dallas Cowboys, said he is still struggling with the diagnosis, but plans to face the disease head on and “live every day to the fullest.”
“In addition to losing strength in my left hand – which makes opening a pack of sugar or buttoning my shirt impossible – I have now experienced weakness in my right hand, abs, lower back and right leg,” Clark wrote in part. “I can’t run, play golf or walk any distances. Picking up anything over 30 pounds is a chore. The one piece of good news is that the disease seems to be progressing more slowly than in some patients.”
He said he encourages the NFL and NFL Players Association to work together to continue making the game safer, especially in relation to head trauma, and that his family has helped him keep a positive mindset.
“I’m not having a press conference or doing any interviews,” Clark wrote. “That time will come. Right now, I’ve got work to do. I’ve got to devote all my energy preparing for this battle and I would hope you can respect my family’s privacy as I begin this challenge. My ultimate hope is that eventually I can assist in finding a cure for ALS, which disrupts the lives of so many and their loved ones.”
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. While symptoms vary in patients, many may experience muscle weakness and have trouble controlling speech, swallowing or motor skills. According to the ALS Association, some patients may live three to five years, while others may live up to 10 or more years. There currently is no cure.