On November 3, 2016, a Boston University researcher confirmed that former NFL player Kevin Turner died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. The statement was made in an effort to clarify conflicting media reports, as diagnoses of both ALS and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, can simultaneously be correct.
First, neuropathologist Ann McKee concluded that she stands by her initial discovery that CTE caused Turner’s fatal neurological disorder, describing her findings as “the best circumstantial evidence we will ever get that this ALS-type of motor neuron disease is caused by CTE.” However, as a result, several doctors who had diagnosed athletes with ALS were displeased with the implication that they had misdiagnosed their patients with ALS rather than CTE.
In her clarification, McKee explained that she does not dispute the clinical diagnosis of ALS in Turner and others, as clinicians base their diagnoses on tests such as muscle biopsies, MRIs, and spinal taps. Rather, she maintained that the pathological diagnosis, which was based on autopsy samples not available prior to Turner’s death, was clearly consistent with the most common form of ALS.