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ALS Targets Football Players, People With Fragile Bones [VIDEO]

Update Date: Mar 25, 2017 09:50 AM EDT

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) may be more prevalent in athletes due to their higher chances of sustaining head injuries. The condition is also linked to people with fragile or unhealthy bones.

ALS (also called as Lou Gehrig's disease) affects the body's voluntary muscle movements such as walking, chewing and breathing. It is progressive and though painless, its symptoms worsen every time -- with no cure in sight. The condition is often regarded as cruel because up until the end, the mind is fully aware of what's happening while the body's central nervous system continues to deteriorate.

The disease was named after the late baseball player Lou Gehrig, who mysteriously lost his strength during the peak of his career. Eventually, he developed paralysis and had problems in speaking and swallowing. The disease's early signs include muscle cramps, twitches, shaky gait, slurred speech and uncontrollable bouts of laughing or crying.

Around 20,000 Americans have the disease and 60 percent of them are male. Ten percent of the patients inherited the condition from their family and 90 percent occurred randomly. Experts started looking at athletes' careers as the starting point of their disorder, the Fox News reported.

Researchers believe that athletes' recurrent head trauma or traumatic head injury may have increased their likelihood of developing ALS. They are not certain yet and they stressed that people respond differently to concussions, but the force of an impact to the head is a possible risk factor.

However, that factor alone is not enough. Doctors must take note of 30 years of the patient's life and take note of his/her family history of migraines and other problems related to the disease.

Former football players are more likely to develop the disease than other members of the general population, according to a 2013 report from the CDC. The report studied 17 athletes who played for five seasons in the NFL from 1959 to 1988.

They all had speed positions in their teams (wide receiver, quarterback, defensive back, etc.) and all died due to a neurological disorder. Their rigorous physical activities as athletes have given them a longer life expectancy than other male groups, but their career also increased their risk of developing brain and nervous system disorders (three times higher than other athletes).

Another study found that poor bone health may be causing or an early sign of ALS, Taylor & Francis Online reported. Fragile and unhealthy bones are commonly seen in people with the disease and they all had fractures (traumatic and osteoporotic) before they were diagnosed with the condition.

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