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Toronto Maple Leafs great Borje Salming diagnosed with ALS

Toronto Maple Leafs legend Borje Salming has been diagnosed with ALS. (The Canadian Press) Toronto Maple Leafs legend Borje Salming has been diagnosed with ALS. (The Canadian Press)

Former Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Borje Salming announced on Wednesday he has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

"I have received news that has shaken my family and me,” the 71-year-old said in a statement released through the team. "The signs that indicated that something was wrong in my body turned out to be the disease ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease."

Salming, who played 16 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1973 to 1989 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996, said he recognizes there is currently no cure for ALS, but said “there are treatments available to slow the progression and my family and I will remain positive.”

"In an instant, everything changed. I do not know how the days ahead will be, but I understand that there will be challenges greater than anything I have ever faced."

ALS is a progressive nervous system disease that leads to paralysis, the inability to swallow, respiratory failure and finally death.

According to John Hopkins Medicine, 50 per cent of patients live at least three years after their diagnosis, while 20 per cent live five years or more. Up to 10 per cent of patients will survive more than 10 years. 

According to his doctor, Salming is receiving treatment in his native country, Sweden, where there are more than 800 people living with ALS.

"ALS is a devastating disease that not only affects the muscles but can also affect personality and cognitive functions," Dr. Caroline Ingre, Salming's physician, said in a statement.

“In about 70 percent of diagnoses, the disease starts with symptoms from the spinal cord, which increasingly weakens the patient's arms and legs, while in about 30 percent it starts around the mouth and throat, leading to slurred speech and difficulties swallowing," she said. "These patients also often have an associated emotional impact that manifests itself as uncontrollable laughter or crying."

Ingre said that most ALS patients experience difficulty breathing, with symptoms most often appearing first at night.

According to the ALS Society Of Canada, approximately 3,000 Canadians live with the disease.

With files from The Canadian Press. Top Stories

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