Lou Gehrig, the iconic New York Yankee slugger, was forced to retire from baseball in 1939 because of a rare neuromuscular disorder. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives a first-of-its-kind glimpse into just how rare that incurable disease is.
The CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found that a little more than 12,000 people (PDF) between October 2010 and December 2011 were living in the U.S. with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. That amounts to about four in 100,000 people. The CDC said ALS, which destroys nerve cells and leads to paralysis, usually leads to death within two to five years of diagnosis.