Professional Football Players at Higher Risk for ALS

Risk for incidence, mortality from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis nearly fourfold higher for NFL players compared with the U.S. male population

Professional Football Players at Higher Risk for ALS
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FRIDAY, Dec. 17, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- The incidence of and mortality from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) among National Football League (NFL) players is nearly four times higher than that of men in the general U.S. population, according to a study published online Dec. 15 in JAMA Network Open.

Daniel H. Daneshvar, M.D., Ph.D., from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues evaluated the incidence of and mortality from ALS in NFL athletes. The analysis included 19,423 NFL athletes who debuted between 1960 and 2019 and played at least one professional game.

At a mean follow-up of 30.6 years, the researchers found that 38 players received a diagnosis of ALS and 28 died during the study time frame. This represents a significantly higher incidence of ALS diagnosis (standardized incidence ratio, 3.59) and mortality (standardized mortality ratio, 3.94) for NFL players compared with the U.S. male population after adjusting for age and race. NFL players who received a diagnosis of ALS had significantly longer careers (mean duration, 7.0 years) than athletes without ALS (mean duration, 4.5 years; odds ratio, 1.2). ALS status did not differ by NFL fame, body mass index, position played, birth location, or race.

"Identifying potential exposure-related risk factors that can be modified or reduced is important so that these risks can be minimized and eliminated," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the National Football League.

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