FACTS ABOUT ALS


ALS = amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease, Motor Neuron Disease (MND)

  • ALS attacks nerve cells called motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, leading to weakness and eventual paralysis of all voluntary muscles, including those used for breathing and swallowing
  • Every 90 minutes, someone is diagnosed with ALS in the U.S.
  • Currently, there is no cure or effective treatment for ALS
  • An estimated 30,000 people in the U.S. have ALS at any given time
  • It can take a year or longer to diagnose ALS
  • Death often occurs within five years of an ALS diagnosis
  • Most cases of ALS are sporadic, occurring in families without a history of the disease
  • ALS shows no prejudice and affects people of all ages
  • Military veterans, regardless of branch of service, are twice as likely to die from ALS as members of the general public
  • Caring for a person with advanced ALS can cost more than $250,000 annually
  • Years ago, it was widely believed that there might be one cause to explain all cases of ALS. Today, doctors and scientists know that can't be the case. Together, they're working to identify the multiple causes of the disorder.
  • The initial signs of ALS vary from patient to patient. In "limb onset" ALS, people experience weakness in a specific muscle group, such as in the leg or the front part of the foot resulting in difficulty walking, referred to as "foot drop." This initial muscle weakness will, with varying progression, typically spread to other parts of the body. When symptoms begin in the chest, neck and mouth area, it is often referred to as "bulbar onset" ALS.
  • The possible causes of the disease are being studied by ALS specialists include genetic factors, protein misfolding, toxic buildup of free radicals, excess levels of a common chemical in the nervous system called glutamate, defects in mitochondria (energy-producing parts of the cell), apoptosis (programmed cell death), immune system abnormalities, viruses and other infectious agents, and toxins.
  • The most promising strategies under investigation for treatment of ALS are aimed at: combating misfolded proteins, modulation of the immune system, protection of nerve cells, improving mitochondrial function, improving muscle function, supporting respiratory function, and antisense technology to stop production of mutant protein.
  • Although ALS research is proceeding at an unprecedented pace, only one medication has been found to be somewhat effective against the disease and is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an ALS treatment. That medication, riluzole, has a modest effect on prolonging survival, which has usually been described as a three-month life extension.

Major League Baseball (MLB) partners with four leading ALS organizations to raise awareness for ALS. This year, for the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig's speech, MLB introduced a commemorative logo worn by all players, managers, coaches and umpires during July 4th games, and a special tribute video featuring one first baseman from every Club reciting a line from Lou Gehrig's speech. Visit MLBCommunity.org to find out how you can join MLB and ALS charities in support of the search for a cure.


The ALS Association is the only national non-profit organization fighting Lou Gehrig's disease on every front. By leading the way in global research, providing assistance for people with ALS through a nationwide network of chapters, coordinating multidisciplinary care through certified clinical care centers, and fostering government partnerships, The Association builds hope and enhances quality of life while aggressively searching for new treatments and a cure. For more information about The ALS Association, visit our website.


The ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI) is the world's largest ALS-dedicated drug development organization. With 30 full-time, industry trained drug development experts on staff, the nonprofit institute screens 25-30 compounds a year, and has screened over 300 since its inception in 1999. ALS TDI is internationally recognized for its work to optimize preclinical models of neurodegeneration for clinical translation, and has over 15 active partnerships with pharmaceutical companies and other biotechs from around the world. ALS TDI is funded by over 150 community grassroots initiatives, foundations, grants, and bequests. Rated a four-star charity by CharityNavigator.com, more than 86% of each dollar raised is spent directly on the Institute's mission: to discover and develop effective treatments to end ALS. For more information, visit our website.


The Muscular Dystrophy Association is the world's leading nonprofit health agency dedicated to saving and improving the lives of anyone with muscle disease, including muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neuromuscular diseases. It does so by funding worldwide research to find treatments and cures; by providing comprehensive health care services and support to MDA families nationwide; and by rallying communities to fight back through advocacy, fundraising and local engagement. Visit mda.org and follow us at facebook.com/MDAnational and @MDAnews. Learn more about MDA's mission by watching this video.


Project A.L.S. is a non-profit 501(c)3 devoted to understanding, treating, and ultimately curing ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Founded in 1998 by Jenifer Estess, her family and friends, Project A.L.S. has become the new paradigm for brain disease research. Ninety percent of funds raised by Project A.L.S. directly support its research programs, which recruit the world's best scientists and doctors to work together- rationally and aggressively- toward a better understanding of the ALS disease process and, in parallel, better therapeutic strategies. Visit our website.