HealthDay News — Professional soccer players may have an increased risk for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), according to a study scheduled for presentation at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, to be held from May 4 to 10 in Philadelphia.

Ettore Beghi, M.D., from the Instituto Mario Negri in Milan, and colleagues identified all professional soccer players who practiced in the period from 1959 to 2000, representing an exposed cohort. Incident ALS cases were identified among these soccer players during 1959 to 2016. Using a well-defined Italian population for reference, the expected incidence rate was established as the number of cases expected per 100,000 persons-years. The ratio between the observed and expected incidence rate was the standardized incidence ratio (SIR).

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The researchers found that 33 soccer players developed ALS, while the expected number of cases was 17.6. The SIR was 1.9 and 4.7 in the entire sample and in those aged younger than 45 years at diagnosis, respectively. Diagnosis occurred at a median of 43.3 years compared with the median age of ALS onset of 62.5 years in the general population.

“It is important to note that repeated traumatic events, heavy physical exercise, and substance use could also be factors in the increased ALS risk among soccer players,” Beghi said in a statement. “In addition, genetics may play a role.”

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