Golf, and other men's hobbies, drive a 300% increase in ALS risk

Golf, and other men's hobbies, drive a 300% increase in ALS risk
Certain hobbies and non-work-related activities have been linked to an increased risk of ALS in men
Certain hobbies and non-work-related activities have been linked to an increased risk of ALS in men
View 1 Image
Certain hobbies and non-work-related activities have been linked to an increased risk of ALS in men
Certain hobbies and non-work-related activities have been linked to an increased risk of ALS in men

Men who engage in recreational activities such as golf, gardening and woodworking are at higher risk of developing ALS, an incurable progressive nervous system disease, a study has found. The findings add to mounting evidence suggesting a link between ALS and exposure to environmental toxins.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), sometimes called Lou Gehrig's disease, causes progressive motor function loss and cognitive changes. While a definitive cause for the condition hasn't been identified, studies have increasingly suggested that the condition is caused by a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental exposure to things like pesticides and heavy metals.

A new study by researchers at the University of Michigan Medicine has added to the growing evidence about what contributes to ALS, linking recreational activities like golf, gardening and woodworking to an increased risk of men, specifically, developing the condition.

“We know that occupational risk factors, like working in manufacturing and trade industries, are linked to an increased risk for ALS, and this adds to a growing literature that recreational activities may also represent important and possibly modifiable risk factors for this disease,” said Stephen Goutman, lead and co-corresponding author of the study.

The researchers surveyed 400 people with ALS and 287 without the condition and asked them to self-report their involvement in hobbies and non-work-related activities. Activities were then stratified by male and female sex.

They found that the risk of developing ALS was increased in men who engaged in swimming, golf, woodworking, hunting and shooting, gardening or yard work, and metal work. Golf, particularly, was associated with a three-times-greater risk. Interestingly, no recreational activities were significantly associated with an increased ALS risk in women. None of the activities were linked to earlier onset of, or death from, ALS for either sex.

“It is surprising that the risk factors we identified appear to be specific to males,” Goutman said. “While these activities may also increase ALS risk in females, the number of females in our study was too small for us to come to that conclusion.”

The study’s findings add to mounting evidence suggesting that ALS has an environmental cause. Gutman said outdoor activities such as golfing, gardening and yardwork might expose people to pesticides. Past studies have found a link between golf and garden maintenance occupations and increased ALS risk. And extensive studies into the effects of woodworking on health led the researchers to believe that formaldehyde exposure could contribute to risk.

“Our goal is to understand what occupations and hobbies increase ALS risk because identifying these activities provides the first step towards ALS prevention,” said Eva Feldman, another of the study’s corresponding authors. “For a disease like Alzheimer’s, we know that a list of factors – including smoking, obesity and high lipids – can increase risk by 40%. Our goal is to establish a similar list for ALS to create a roadmap to decrease risk. With apologies to Robert Frost, it is currently the ‘road not taken,’ and we want to change that.”

The study was published in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences.

Source: Michigan Medicine

Pression de Gonflage
For the last millenium we have been told that golf and gardening are good for you in so many ways, although woodworking with sharp electricity-powered weapons plus toxic dust is a bit iffy. All three are designated hobbies and thus by definition, good for your mental contentment.

Now it seems that for the first two, going out in the fresh air is not so good, and presumably if you do your woodworking in the open air it becomes lethal.

So we should perhaps conclude that we are damned if we do and damned if we don't.

I may write again shortly if perchance I survive my proposed production this afternoon, of a wooden shed in which to store my lawnmower and my clubs.

Ho hum
"Golf, particularly, was associated with a three-times-greater risk."

Might this be associated with the boring pointlessness of the activity? The brain looking for a way to end it and opting for ALS?
Brian M
Ah another excuse not to do the gardening - pity about the golf though!
Correlation, not causation.
The humorous view of it all seen here may help the mental stress reduction countering the affect of the poisons ?-),, Seriously, it appears its the poisons with golf's lawn care not an issue in wild nature,, but for breathing gun smoke. The bottom line is to avoid poisons in manufactured wood, lawn care and gardening etc. but not its humor.
While this journal article is behind a firewall, the "Michigan Medicine" access is sketchy at best. Since ALS seems to have genetic susceptibility and most everyone knows heavy metals inhaled or ingested is problematic - the possibility that woodworkers huffing formaldehyde products COULD result in ALS as stated in the article. First, Goutman has been beating this drum for at least 5 years, all correlations rather than causative findings - his suspicions may certainly be right...or not. The authors even hedge their potential conclusions: Both Goutman and Feldman say it is too early for clinicians to advise that patients stop doing any of these activities.
This potential linkage is provocative. But a 687-person sample size, including 400 with ALS, is ridiculously small. Try starting with a meaningful 6,870,000-person sample size. We should use anonymized medical record data for research purposes. It would be a positive use of the potential of big data.
Golf sucks anyway. And it only requires one ball. My chosen activity is motorcycling, with its own inherent risks. But at least not the living hell of ALS.
It would be interesting to survey past and present groundskeepers at golf links. It would be easy to find them, they presumably have even higher exposure to the pesticides than recreational players, and it could help identify whether or not pesticides are a factor in ALS.
Treon Verdery
I think people should keep enjoying themselves. ALS is comparatively rare, Microsoft Copilot says, "For men above age 40, the prevalence increases with age, with the highest prevalence of 20.0 per 100,000 among men aged 70-79 years".

Based on that data, even among men in their 70s, there is only a 2% chance the woodworking or golf chemicals, if it does happen to be chemicals, will cause illness. Hobbies have value.

Load More