Anyone with a Facebook account has no doubt seen at least one video of the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” which was designed to bring attention and donations to charities supporting Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), which is better known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” The emphasis on head injuries to professional athletes, including football and soccer players, has brought more attention to this terrible disease. The potential that contact sports and/or exercise might lead to the development of the disease is the focus of this article, from September 3, which points at two new studies which studied that very hypothesis.
The bigger of the two studies included 652 ALS patients and 1,166 people from similar demographics from five nations. The results showed that physical activity itself had no real impact on an individual’s likelihood to develop ALS. If anything, exercise seemed to limit the chances, although other factors, such as a healthy diet, could play a role as well.
However, the results did show that multiple hits to the head, which could come from a number of sports, including football and soccer, did increase the risk. On the other hand, rugby, which is a very physical game, does not show any increased risk of ALS. Football players do seem to suffer concussions at a greater rate than rugby though. Additionally, soccer players have shown a tendency to develop ALS with the theory being that the disease is due to the heading of the ball so many times in a player’s career.
The research shows that people who are just interested in a healthy lifestyle probably do not have to worry about ALS. However, it is the parents of small children who are interested in getting into sports who should pay the most attention to this research. The risks of sports like football and soccer may not be worth the rewards.