Study Finds Curious Link Between ALS and Men's Golf Habits

It turns out sports like golfing might have a concerning connection to a fatal neurological disease. A recent study published in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences found a potential connection between golf and other recreational activities and the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known widely as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Researchers broke down how golfing and activities like gardening, woodworking, and hunting can affect a person's likelihood to develop ALS in later years. Studies in the past have found that many manual labor jobs can be linked to an increased risk for ALS, and the latest research illuminates the potential dangers of golfing on top of different physical activities.

"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," study author Stephen Goutman said in a statement.

Related: Golfers Face Elevated Risk of Developing This Health Problem, Study Finds

The study took place between June 2010 and February 2020. The team examined 400 people living with ALS and asked them about their hobbies five years before the onset of symptoms; 287 people who don't have the disease similarly shared their go-to hobbies in the years before participating in the study. These activities included golf, woodworking, hunting, shooting, and some home renovation.

In the end, the study found that men who play golf may be at three times higher risk of developing ALS in their lives. Female golfers may also be at higher risk, but the numbers weren't high enough for researchers to say so definitively.

"It is surprising that the risk factors we identified appear to be specific to males," Goutman confessed. "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."

Still, don't let the study keep you from the tee box. The scientists say it's too early for medical professionals to advise their patients to stop golfing. Instead, they want more research done in the future to find the best options for dealing with ALS. "Future studies should include these activities to pinpoint how they can be understood in the context of ALS prevention, diagnosis, and treatment," Goutman said. For now, it remains a correlation rather than a causation.

It's ultimately best to try and stay as active as possible, even if it means playing golf or doing some home remodeling.