Former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dwight Clark announced Sunday that he has been diagnosed with ALS. The 60-year-old, who made one of the most memorable catches in NFL history, revealed the diagnosis in a statement, saying he first began feeling symptoms two years ago.
“In September of 2015, I started feeling weakness in my left hand,” Clark wrote. “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, 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.”
Clark, who retired from the NFL in 1987, said that he will “live every day to the fullest” while he battles the disease.
“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.”
Clark played his entire nine-year career with the 49ers and was named to two Pro Bowls. Clark’s lasting moment on the field occurred Jan. 10, 1982, when he made a leaping touchdown catch in the final moments of the 1982 NFC Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys that lifted the 49ers to victory in dramatic fashion.
Though a connection to football hasn’t been conclusively determined, Clark hopes the NFL will continue to take measures to make the game safer.
“I’ve been asked if playing football caused this,” Clark wrote. “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.”