ALS Association-Funded Research Shows Link Between Football and ALS


Research funded by The ALS Association has found that NFL players are four times more likely to be diagnosed with ALS and die from the disease than people who never played in the league, adding to the mounting evidence of a link between playing football and ALS.

The study, led by researchers at Harvard University and Boston University’s CTE Center, looked at 19,423 athletes who played in the NFL between 1960 and 2019.

The research paper, “Incidence of and Mortality From Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in National Football League Athletes,” was published December 15 in the journal Neurology.

“Ultimately, this study provides additional evidence suggesting that NFL athletes are at increased risk of ALS and suggests that this risk may increase with more years of NFL exposure,” the authors noted in summarizing the findings.

To learn more about the connection between football, traumatic brain injuries and ALS, listen to a discussion with Chris Nowinski, co-founder and CEO at the Concussion and Legacy Foundation on Connecting ALS.

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Submitted by: herman D. on Sun, 12/19/2021

have they also followed other sports?

Submitted by: Amy L. on Mon, 12/20/2021

Hi Herman. This study evaluated incidence rate in athletes who played in the NFL.

Submitted by: Diane S. on Sat, 01/22/2022

My grandson rides bareback horses in rodeos. Have there been any studies on these athletes in the business of rodeo?

Submitted by: Paulette P. on Sat, 01/08/2022

My sister suffered from migraine headaches when she was younger. Is there a chance that there is a connection to ALS?

Submitted by: Amy L. on Thu, 01/13/2022

Hi Paulette. As of now, there is no known direct connection between migraines and ALS. There have been a couple of studies that have connected migraines to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. The ALS Association is actively funding projects that are looking at risk factors such as this to link them to an increased risk of getting ALS.

Submitted by: James H. on Fri, 01/14/2022

No family history of ALS. I played four years of college football though with at least two concussions. Am 71 years old.

Submitted by: Rafael M. on Wed, 01/24/2024

If that is the case, wouldn't boxers be prone to suffer from higher rates of ALS also?

Submitted by: Stephanie O. on Fri, 01/26/2024

Hello Rafael, there has been some research into the connection between frequent traumatic brain injuries and neurological diseases, which could apply to boxers as well. Learn more in this podcast episode:

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