David Blatt-Fighting The Battle of His Life


Dr. Beth Sullivan | Aug 23rd, 2019

On Monday, former Cleveland Cavaliers and current Olympiacos coach David Blatt revealed that he was suffering from a progressive neurologic condition called Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. This form of multiple sclerosis is one of four disease paths that have been identified for this disease. The thing that differentiates them is the nature of the progression of the disease over time. Blatt is not alone in the sports world to be suffering from this debilitating disease.

Stan Belinda was a major league pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds who was diagnosed in 1998 and continued to play major league baseball for two years following his diagnosis. Josh Harding was a goalie for the Minnesota Wild when he was diagnosed after losing control of his legs during a practice. He began treatment and went on to have the best year of his career the following season. He was even awarded the Masterton Trophy for his courageous fight against MS in 2013. These players along with over 2.3 million people worldwide fight this illness every day.


MS in all its manifestations is usually diagnosed between age 25 and 50 but that doesn’t mean that people older or younger can’t be diagnosed. It is over two times more likely in women than in men. It is an autoimmune disease whereby a person’s immune system attacks their own neurons by damaging the myelin sheath covering the nerve cells. There is some belief that the disease may have an inherited component but what that is is not yet known. In addition, there are studies on going looking for links between MS and low vitamin D levels and cigarette smoking and how these things could lead to susceptible individuals in developing the disease.

MS is a diagnosis of exclusion. This means that other conditions that could cause the symptoms are ruled out before the diagnosis is made. There is no definitive test for diagnosing MS like a blood test or an EKG. In order to diagnose MS, a neurologist will conduct a thorough careful medical and family history, a physical exam including an in-depth neurologic exam and various tests including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), spinal fluid analysis, and blood tests to rule out other conditions.


There are currently four types of Multiple Sclerosis identified.

  • Clinically isolated syndrome– (CIS) is the first episode of neurologic symptoms caused by inflammation and demyelination in the central nervous system. It is the symptoms that cause this initiation of the diagnostic workup.
  • Relapsing-Remitting Syndrome -(RRMS) is characterized by periods of relapses (new symptoms or a new worsening of older symptoms also called attacks or exacerbations) that subside, with full or partial recovery, and no disease progression (worsening) between attacks. This is the most common disease course and affects 80-85% of people diagnosed with MS.
  • Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis–  (SPMS) follows RRMS in some people and is characterized by a more progressive course, with or without relapses or new MRI activity. The relapses and progression in this type are more aggressive and can result in significant neurologic symptoms. This type of MS affects up to 25% of people initially diagnosed with RRMS type, but the progression of the disease over the initial 18-24 months allows the specific syndrome to be identified.
  • Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PPMS) characterized by a gradual but steady progression of disability from the onset of symptoms, without relapses or remissions. In this type of MS, the patient is diagnosed and gets progressively worse. Approximately 15% of people are diagnosed with this type.

There are several medications approved for use with the different types of MS. Each FDA approved medication is approved for specific types, which is why the diagnosis is essential. While there is no cure for MS there is a lot of research ongoing into medications to treat and what are the causes for this disease.

All of us at want to wish Coach Blatt and all others battling this disease well as they fight a battle of their life to try to live and continue to prosper with this disease.

Questions and comments?


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