(CNN)NFL players are about four times more likely to die of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, than the general public, researchers found in a study published Wednesday.
The researchers from Harvard University and Boston University’s CTE Center evaluated all 19,423 NFL athletes who played one or more games between 1960 and 2019, the largest study to date on the relationship between football and ALS.
Previous studies had found a similar link between football and ALS but among much smaller numbers of athletes.
In the new study, published in the journal JAMA Open Network, the researchers also found that NFL players diagnosed with ALS had longer professional football careers than those without the disease, suggesting an association between the disease and increased exposure to head trauma.
Those who had ALS had an average career of 7 years, compared with 4.5 years among players who didn’t have ALS.
“We believe this novel finding linking a longer career to increased risk of ALS adds to the growing evidence that repetitive head impacts from playing football are contributing to professional players developing ALS,” study co-author Dr. Daniel Daneshvar said in a statement.
Daenshvar is assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a brain injury physician at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.
The researchers combed through public records on all the players between October 2020 and July 2021, including news reports, obituaries and NFL statistics.
They found 38 players who received a diagnosis of ALS, of whom 28 had died of the disease.
The overall incidence of ALS in the United States is 1.5 to 2.2 cases per 100,000 people, but the odds go up with age … read more.
Partial list of current or former NFL Players who have or had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Billy Anderson, Houston Oilers
- O. J. Brigance, Baltimore Ravens
- Gene Brito, Washington Redskins, Los Angeles Rams
- Dwight Clark, San Francisco 49ers
- Wayne Davis, San Diego Chargers, Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins
- Rickey Dixon, Cincinnati Bengals
- Jim Dooley, Chicago Bears
- Pete Duranko, Denver Broncos
- Steve Gleason, New Orleans Saints
- Tim Green, Atlanta Falcons
- Matt Hazeltine, San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants
- Wally Hilgenberg, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings
- Jim Houston, Cleveland Browns
- Derrick Jensen, Oakland Raiders
- Gary Lewis, San Francisco 49ers
- Tony Liscio, Dallas Cowboys
- Mickey Marvin, Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
- Fred McNeill, Minnesota Vikings
- Glenn Montgomery, Houston Oilers, Seattle Seahawks
- Eric Scoggins, San Francisco 49ers
- Tim Shaw, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears, Tennessee Titans
- Steve Smith, Oakland Raiders
- Warner Smith, Indianapolis Colts
- Orlando Thomas, Minnesota Vikings
- Kevin Turner, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles
- Bob Waters, San Francisco 49ers
- William White, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons
- Del Williams, New Orleans Saints
- Kerry Goode, Tampa Bay Buccaneers , New York Giants Asst. Coach, St. Louis Rams Asst. Coach