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A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

A fight to reexamine Gehrig’s medical records

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Oct 05, 2012 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Something completely different while we’re waiting for tonight’s postseason workout and possible news about the postseason roster…

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Some Minnesota lawmakers hope to force the release of Lou Gehrig’s medical records, saying they might provide insight into whether the Yankees star died of the disease that came to take his name or whether repetitive head trauma played some kind of role.

Their effort comes despite opposition from Mayo Clinic, which holds the records, and skepticism from experts that the records alone would prove anything.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, a Minneapolis Democrat and self-described baseball fanatic, conceded that the records “probably won’t show anything.”

“But just in case they might it’s ridiculous not to look at them,” she said Thursday.

Gehrig’s death is attributed to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a debilitating neurological disease that after his death in 1941 became commonly known by his name.

Kahn said she became intrigued after reading about a widely publicized study in 2010 that suggested a potential link between repetitive brain trauma in athletes and ALS. She noted that Gehrig suffered several concussions during his career, in which he set a record for the most consecutive games played, and that he played football at Columbia University. Given all the information that’s emerged in recent years about the long-term effects of head trauma in athletes, she said, it would be useful to know what Gehrig’s records say.

Kahn said she and some other lawmakers hope to change state law to allow release of health records of patients who have been dead more than 50 years, unless descendants object or the patient signed a will or health care directive to the contrary.

Gehrig has no living relatives to give consent. Mayo Clinic spokesman Nick Hanson said the clinic can’t discuss a patient without their consent or permission from a legally authorized decision-maker such as family or an estate administrator.

“Mayo Clinic values the privacy of our patients,” Hanson said in an email. “Patient medical records should remain private even after the patient is deceased.”

Several medical experts say they strongly doubt the records would shed any new light on the theory that Gehrig might have died from something other than ALS. That includes the author of the study that caught Kahn’s eye, Dr. Ann McKee.

“I don’t think the medical records would be helpful,” said McKee, chief neuropathologist for the National VA Brain Bank and co-director of Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. “It really requires looking at the tissue and he was cremated, so it’s not possible.”

Associated Press photo




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