We don’t tend to associate sports with diseases. In fact, athletes are viewed as some of the fittest and healthiest people in the world, but perceptions can be strange things. In fact, it’s actually the case that some athletes can be quite unhealthy, but the health problems don’t become clear until later in life. Soccer players are considered to be at higher risk of contracting Motor Neuron Disease, and they show symptoms much sooner.
The fact that this is a disease that seems to affect soccer players came to light when some Italian professional soccer players actually died as a result of the disease! Of course, there were some who speculated that this could just have been a coincidence. So, Dr. Ettore Beghi delved deep and decided to do some research, taking 25,000 Italian player records from between 1959 and 2000. 33 of these cases developed Motor Neuron Disease after retirement, while the true number is most likely to be significantly higher.
There are a lot of things that you might think about as causes for Motor Neuron Disease, but it seems like trauma is a pretty big factor. A big part of the game of soccer involves heading the ball, and this is something that is done with a fair degree of frequency. This is something that can potentially cause issues later in life, and this is before we even mention the fact that heavy physical trauma also plays a role as well.
Famous cases MND, such as Stephen Hawking and Lou Gehrig happened in their 20s and 30s, but it actually seems that statistically, the most common age of onset is 63. However, in professional soccer players, the age is much younger, with the average being 43. Genetics can play a role, of course they can, and statistically, around 10% of MND cases are familial. But, there is no question that traumatic events and physical exertion can play big roles in this moving forward.
It seems that the risk of MND is six times higher in professional soccer players than for the general public, and constant head trauma might play a big role in this. The hope is that this is a problem that can be dealt with sooner rather than later, and hopefully, studies into MND will help provide better ways of dealing with the problem.