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49ers Great Dwight Clark Diagnosed with ALS
Sad news for the San Francisco 49ers family today. Former receiver Dwight Clark, who is best known for his iconic leaping touchdown catch in the 1982 NFC Championship Game, has announced that he has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Clark made the announcement on Sunday in a statement posted on the website of former 49ers owner Ed DeBartolo Jr.
“In September of 2015, I started feeling weakness in my left hand,” Clark writes. “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 would just come and go.
“After months of tests and treatment,” he continues, “I got some bad news. I was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. I have ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Those words are still very hard for me to say.”
Recent research has linked ALS to CTE, the degenerative brain disease associated with repeated concussions. Clark addressed this in his letter.
“I’ve been asked if playing football caused this,” Clark writes. “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.”
While the disease seems to be progressing more slowly in Clark than in some patients, his quality of life has already been affected.
“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 good news, if you can bring yourself to call it that, is that Clark has received an outpouring of support from his friends, family, and former teammates.
“Every single one of my 49ers teammates that has contacted me has said whatever I need, anytime I need it, they will help. That’s just the kind of guys they are. They were so giving as players and now they are the same as friends.”
Niners legend Joe Montana, who threw the ball that Clark caught in ’82, issued a statement of his own on Sunday.
“Jennifer and I are saddened by the diagnosis of Dwight,” it reads. “This is a difficult time for Dwight, Kelly and all of us who love him. He is family, and in our continual thoughts and prayers. We hope the public will be cognizant of Dwight’s desire for privacy.”
Jerry Rice also offered sympathy.
“DC has done so much for me as a player and friend,” Rice wrote in a statement. “My rookie year he showed me how to run that out route! We know him for the catch but he’s a great individual who cares about people. Please pray for him Faithful through this adversity!!! I love the guy!!!!”
Dwight Clark was a two-time All-Pro who won two Super Bowl rings with the 49ers. His defining moment, known simply as “The Catch,” came in January 1982, when he scored the winning touchdown in the 49ers’ 28-27 NFC Championship Game victory over the Dallas Cowboys with just 51 seconds left on the clock.
Hat Tip – [ESPN]