Physical Trauma and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: A Population-Based Study Using Danish National Registries

Am J Epidemiol. 2016 Feb 15;183(4):294-301. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwv169. Epub 2016 Jan 28.


Prior studies have suggested that physical trauma might be associated with the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We conducted a population-based, individually matched case-control study in Denmark to assess whether hospitalization for trauma is associated with a higher risk of developing ALS. There were 3,650 incident cases of ALS in the Danish National Patient Register from 1982 to 2009. We used risk-set sampling to match each case to 100 age- and sex-matched population controls alive on the date of the case's diagnosis. Odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were calculated using a conditional logistic regression model. History of trauma diagnosis was also obtained from the Danish Patient Register. When traumas in the 5 years prior to the index date were excluded, there was a borderline association between any trauma and ALS (odds ratio (OR) = 1.09, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.99, 1.19). A first trauma before age 55 years was associated with ALS (OR = 1.22, 95% CI: 1.08, 1.37), whereas first traumas at older ages were not (OR = 0.97, 95% CI: 0.85, 1.10). Our data suggest that physical trauma at earlier ages is associated with ALS risk. Age at first trauma could help explain discrepancies in results of past studies of trauma and ALS.

Keywords: ALS; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; neurology; physical trauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / etiology
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / complications
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / epidemiology*
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Registries*