There is no cure for it, no treatment. The only thing doctors can hope for right now is slowing the progression of the disease using a specific drug. In it’s advance stages, the brain stops sending messages to the voluntary muscles. In the end, it could lead to complications in breathing and causing the breathing to cease.
The disease is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is a typically fatal disease. It is this disease that O.J. Brigance, is working to help researchers find a cure for. It is this disease the Brigance has been diagnosed with.
Having spent 7 years as a linebacker, OJ Brigance has played with the Miami Dolphins, St. Louis Rams, New England Patriots and during 2000, was with the Baltimore Ravens, where he currently works now as Director of Player Development.
In his fight with ALS, he has created the Brigance Brigade Fund, a foundation that fundraises for the battle against ALS. He is an ambassador for the John Hopkins University Packards Center, and Honorary Chairman for the Packard Center 5K and Fun Run, which will occur on May 3d.
What is ALS: ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually lead to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. (1)
Early symptoms may include weakness or cramping in the hands, feet and limbs; twitching in the muscles, thick speech or difficulty in swallowing. Advanced symptoms can include difficulty in breathing. ALS doesn’t manifest itself the same way in everyone, nor does it effect everyone the same way. Although the average survival time for those diagnosed is three to five years, many people live beyond that. In some instances, ALS has shown to remit or halt the progression.
It wasn’t just his ALS that made Brigance a person who cares. While with the NFL, he had worked with Habitats for Humanity, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Daily Food Bank. His works in the community had lead to him being honored with the NFLPA’s Unsung Hero award in 1999.
OJ Brigance definitely is someone who cares.
For more information:
(1) What is ALS, from the ALS Association Website.