Legendary San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dwight Clark has ALS, and suspects football may be a cause

Dwight ClarkTony Avelar/AP

Legendary San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dwight Clark, a two-time Super Bowl winner most famous for making “The Catch” in the 1981 AFC Championship Game, has been diagnosed with ALS. 

Clark, 60, announced the news in a statement over the weekend. He said that he suspects football is a potential cause.

In September 2015, Clark said, he began to feel weakness in his right hand. At first he believed this to be nerve damage from his football career, but now struggles to walk. 

Writes Clark:

“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. 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.”

As Deadspin noted, ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, has been linked to football and head trauma, though much more research needs to be done on the subject before any definitive conclusions can be reached. Clark, for his part, suspects football did play some role. 

From his statement:

“I’ve been asked if playing football caused this. I don’t know for sure. But I certainly suspect it did. And I encourage the NFLPA and the NFL to continue working together in their efforts to make the game of football safer, especially as it relates to head trauma.”

You can read Clark’s full statement here.

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