Former San Francisco 49ers star Dwight Clark said in a statement Sunday that he has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
He disclosed his diagnosis of the disease in a statement posted on former 49ers owner Ed DeBartolo Jr.’s website.
Clark, 60, best known for his winning catch in the 1981 NFC Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys, wrote, “In September of 2015, I started feeling weakness in my left hand. 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.”
He went on to say that after months of treatment, he was finally diagnosed.
“There is no test that will positively diagnose you with ALS. You have to eliminate the possibility of all other diseases and disorders and then wait to see what additional symptoms you develop,” Clark said.
In the statement, Clark said he visited six neurologists and three ALS specialists in addition to receiving treatment for B12 deficiency, a condition that can mirror the symptoms of ALS.
Clark said he didn’t know for sure if playing football caused the disease, but that he suspects that it did.
He went on to encourage the National Football League Players Association and the league itself to continue to work together to make the game of football safer, especially as it relates to head trauma.
Several of Clark’s former colleagues and teammates issued statements to express their sadness at Clark’s diagnosis.
Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly posted on Instagram that he was “praying for [his] buddy.”
Current 49ers CEO Jed York released a statement that said he was “deeply saddened” upon learning of Clark’s diagnosis and that he would receive full, unconditional support from the team and staff.
“Many know Dwight as an iconic figure in 49ers lore, whose accomplishments on the field brought joy to fans around the world. Our organization is fortunate to know him more intimately as a wonderful man who has given so much of himself as an ambassador to the entire Bay Area. We will stand alongside Dwight and his family as they wage this battle,” York said.
Clark is best remembered for “The Catch,” where Joe Montana threw a game-winning touchdown to Clark with 51 seconds remaining in the game against the Cowboys that sent the 49ers to their first Super Bowl in 1981.