Professional football and MND – looking at the evidence

Last year professional football players, Len Johnrose and Stephen Darby, announced they’d been diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND). This follows previous announcements from other prominent footballers in this country and across the world in recent years.

Is it the case that professional football players are more prone to developing MND than the general population? Or is this just the impression created by the high-profile nature of these professionals and the corresponding media coverage these cases bring? What does the science suggest?

Here we look at some of the studies that investigate the incidence (rate of newly diagnosed cases) of MND in professional football players and take a closer look at the suggested causes.Read More »

Lifestyle & environment: Highlights from Glasgow

This blog is part of the ‘Highlights from Glasgow’ collection of articles, where you can read about the content of some of the talks and posters presented at the 29th International Symposium on ALS/MND.

In the Epidemiology session (5C), several talks focused on the risk associated with various lifetime events, and the demographics of people who develop MND categorised by onset at various body regions. Susan Peters (C37) and her colleagues studied a group of 1,500 people with MND and 3,000 control participants, and found that people who had suffered head trauma after the age of 55 had an increased risk of developing the disease compared to those without this type trauma. They further found reduced risk in people currently/recently taking antihypertensive and cholesterol-lowering medication, but this risk was significantly increased in people who were taking these medications earlier in life. These findings now need to be explored further to investigate the underlying mechanisms that would explain these differences.Read More »

What’s going on inside? Possible mechanisms associated with physical activity and MND

Physical activity and MND – part 3

This is the final blog article in our trio of blogs that are looking at physical activity and MND. The first two have addressed the questions ‘did the amount of physical activity I undertook before my diagnosis cause my MND?’ and ‘can I continue with physical activity after my diagnosis, or will this make my MND worse?’

Despite the evidence reported by Visser and colleagues, which showed an increase of 6% in the risk of developing MND in people with high activity levels (discussed in the first of these blogs), there is limited evidence to support a relationship between physical activity and the development of MND, that is, what exactly is it about physical activity that would lead to MND-specific neurodegeneration. The available evidence tends to suggest it is more likely that there are other, as yet unidentified, factors associated with physical activity that might drive the risk. However, several credible explanations for how exercise could directly cause MND have been proposed and studied and we are going to take a more in-depth look at some of these here.Read More »

Exercise after diagnosis – a closer look at the evidence

Physical activity and MND – part 2

This is part two of our series of blogs looking at links between physical activity and MND. This article will look at whether or not exercise should be continued after diagnosis.

Exercise is widely recommended to the general population due to its benefits to health and wellbeing. It improves the cardiovascular, respiratory, musculoskeletal, and endocrine functions and leads to psychological wellbeing. Many people with MND specifically ask whether they can safely continue to exercise regularly without fear of accelerating their disease. At present, there is no firm evidence that exercise exerts a harmful effect, although avoidance of very strenuous activity would seem to be sensible. Low-grade, managed, exercise programmes may even be of benefit.Read More »

Does physical activity cause MND? A fresh look at the evidence

Physical activity and MND – part 1

Every month the Research Information team looks at ‘the stats’ for the MND Research blog. These show us how many times each of our blogs are looked at and, every month, ‘Physical activity and MND – is there a link?’ features in the top five. This is possibly driven by media stories of professional sportspeople who have been diagnosed with MND. As we receive a lot of emails about this subject, we felt it was about time for an update as ‘the stats’ suggest this is a topic close to people’s hearts.

This is the first of three blog articles looking at MND and physical activity and other factors that may, or may not, play a role in the development of the disease.

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Physical activity and the odds of developing MND

Physical activity has always been at the forefront of factors associated with MND, but studies investigating its effect have often been conflicting. The reason why we might see contrasting results is often due to different cohorts and numbers of people included in the study, the method by which the data was collected, or the types of questions asked and the way they were presented. Increased number of studies on the same topic might then improve the way these are conducted in the future and provide more reliable conclusions.

The most recent multi-centre study that included over 1,500 people with MND and nearly 3,000 control participants was conducted by the Euro-MOTOR consortium under the leadership of Prof Leonard van den Berg. Today (24 April), the group published a paper on their findings in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry . The study collected data using thorough questionnaires, presented to Dutch, Irish and Italian participants either face-to-face or on paper, asking about their exposure to smoking, alcohol, and the type and amount of physical activity throughout their lifetime – both occupational and leisure. A score was then assigned to each person based on the amount of energy expenditure each activity requires – this is called metabolic equivalent of task (MET).Read More »