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Elite American footballers more likely to contract MND – Lou Gehrig’s disease, study shows

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The new study suggests that men who played in the National Football League (NFL) in the United States over the past 60 years have nearly four times the risk of developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as motor neuron disease (MND) or Lou Gehrig’s disease – a fatal neurodegenerative disorder – than the general population.

The diagnosis rate of the whole cohort of 19,423 NFL players who played at least one game between 1960 and 2019 was compared to the general population. ALS was diagnosed in 38 players, and 28 of them died throughout the study period.

All 19 423 NFL players who debuted between 1960 and 2019 and played 1 or more professional games were included in this population-based cohort research. The study was carried out from October 3, 2020, to July 19, 2021.

On the basis of public records from NFL statistics aggregators, press reports, obituaries, and National Death Index results, ALS cases and death information were identified. The standardized incidence and mortality ratios were derived using data from ALS surveillance studies that took into account age, gender, and race. Secondary analyses used a nested case-control approach, matching athletes with ALS to athletes without ALS, by NFL debut year, to look at the relationship between BMI, NFL career duration, race, birth location, and indicators of renown.

This cohort study included a total of 19 423 male former and present NFL players (ages 23 to 78) who were followed for a total of 13.7 years. After adjusting for age and race, 38 players were diagnosed with ALS, and 28 died during the study period, indicating a significantly higher incidence of ALS diagnosis (standardized incidence ratio, 3.59; 95 percent CI, 2.58-4.93) and mortality (standardized mortality ratio, 3.94; 95 percent CI, 2.62-5.69) among NFL players.

Nested-case-control studies on NFL athletes indicated that those who were diagnosed with ALS had significantly longer careers (mean [SD] duration, 7.0 [3.9] years) than those who were not diagnosed with ALS (mean [SD] duration, 4.5 [3.6] years; odds ratio, 1.2; 95 percent CI, 1.1-1.3). There were no changes in ALS status depending on NFL fame, BMI, position played, birth place, or race as proxy.

All NFL players who debuted between 1960 and 2019 had an age, sex, and race-adjusted incidence and mortality from ALS about four times higher than the general population. Athletes with ALS had longer NFL careers than those without the disease, implying a link between NFL playing time and ALS. The discovery of these ALS risk factors may help in the understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms that cause this lethal neurodegenerative illness, according to authors.

In simple words, while the average NFL career lasts 4.5 years, the average career length for those diagnosed with ALS is seven years, suggesting that a longer career could raise the risk.

Source: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.38801

You were reading: Elite American footballers more likely to contract MND – Lou Gehrig’s disease

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