Dwight Clark, one half of one of the most famous plays in NFL history, offered an update on his battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease, saying “they need to find a cure to this thing because it is torture.”
Clark, the wide receiver at the end of the Joe Montana pass that beat the Dallas Cowboys in the 1982 NFC championship game, announced in March that he has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, an incurable, progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
“I’m losing strength and I’ve lost 80 pounds, if you can believe that,” Clark said in an interview on KNBR Radio’s “Murph and Mac” show in San Francisco. “But I’m still able to use my hands a little bit. Walk a little bit. But this stuff is no joke, man. They need to find a cure to this thing because it is torture. It’s just going through all the different phases. I wake up every morning and I take that first step to see if it’s going to work. And it’s ‘Okay, still walking today.’”
At best, he added that, “I’m just hoping that it plateaus at some point before I get all the way to the end,” he said, “where I can’t move, and talk and all that.”
Clark, 60, was honored Sunday during halftime of the 49ers’ game at Levi’s Stadium and many of his former teammates, including Montana, showed up wearing his No. 87 jersey. In March, he had said he was starting to experience weakness in his right hand, abs, lower back and right leg.
“The one piece of good news is that the disease seems to be progressing more slowly than in some patients,” Clark wrote last March in an open letter to the public. “While I’m still trying to wrap my head around the challenge I will face with this disease over the coming years, the only thing I know is that I’m going to fight like hell and live every day to the fullest.”
With other former NFL players, like Steve Gleason and Tim Shaw, also facing ALS, Clark said he was considering whether there was a link between the head trauma football players suffer and ALS, as there is with chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
“I’ve been asked if playing football caused this,” Clark, who played all nine of his seasons with the 49ers, wrote in March. “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.”
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