Before You Take The Ice Bucket Challenge, How Much Do You Know About ALS?

Ready to dump freezing cold water over your head? The ice bucket challenge is a certified fad and has reportedly raised about $88 million for ALS research. But of the more than 650,000 people — including more than 1,000 celebrities — who have taken the challenge and posted their videos to YouTube, how many really know exactly what the disease they are trying to combat actually is?

For that matter, how much do you know about ALS?

If you’re not familiar with the causes and symptoms of this devastating disease, please take 2 minutes to view this video, from our friends at BuzzFeed, which presents a concise, even entertaining explanation of ALS, and the terrible effects it has on the human body.

Just to get you started, ALS is an abbreviation for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a degenerative neuromuscular disease that strikes the brain and spinal cord, causing the body’s motor neurons — the cells that allow your brain to control your muscles — to die. The effects are serious and disabling and generally lead to death within a few years after the first signs of the disease become visible.

ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in memory of the great New York Yankees baseball player of the 1920s and ’30s who died of ALS in 1941 at age 37.

Many other famous people have suffered from ALS as well. The most famous is the physicist and author Stephen Hawking, who remarkably has survived more than 50 years with ALS.

Former United States Senator from New York Jacob Javits, jazz music legend Charles Mingus, and the founder and first leader of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong, all passed away from the effects of ALS as well.

So before you drench yourself in the ice bucket challenge, take two minutes to learn why you’re doing this crazy thing.