Physical activity, trauma, and ALS: a case-control study

Acta Neurol Scand. 1996 Jul;94(1):45-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0404.1996.tb00038.x.


Aims: The association of trauma and physical activity with ALS is controversial. We explored the relation in a pilot case-control study.

Material and methods: ALS patients were selected from a university muscle disease clinic and paired with two matched controls: one from the clinic, but having different diseases, and one from the community.

Results: We found several strong and statistically significant differences between ALS cases and the matched controls. These included severe head, neck and back injury (OR = 5.3), the frequency of sweating in work (OR = 1.6) or leisure activity (also OR = 1.6), and earning a school letter (OR = 3.1). Other measures of trauma and activity, while not achieving statistical significance (p < 0.05), were in accord with these findings.

Discussion: Possible explanations include trauma and vigorous exercise precipitating ALS; trauma as an early sign of disease; or a third factor associated with ALS predisposing to injury.

Conclusions: Severe head, neck, and back injury and frequency of sweating both in work and leisure activity showed a strong association with ALS. Further study could test narrower and less common exposures with greater statistical power.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / physiopathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Wounds and Injuries / physiopathology*