• Fran Finney posted an update 2 years, 1 month ago

    I just read the ALS News Today article about correlation between a lifetime participation in sports and the brain’s decreased ability to adapt to ALS. Very troubling!

    • Ye, that was an interesting finding. Apparently the decreased ability was in relation to changes in balance and voluntary muscle control.

      • Unexpected finding, for me. I’m going to follow this research.

        My husband was very athletic before he was diagnosed with ALS – a marathon runner, stunt skier, dancer, karate, yoga, etc. I thought his athleticism might have helped him adapt to a very aggressive ALS, but now I wonder if his ALS was even more aggressive as a result of his athleticism. He had a fast progression: PWC, PEG-tube, trach/vent all in the first two years. At the beginning he seemed to be the master of adaptation. During those first few months, he learned how to continue running by “zen running”. Although he was right handed, he lost his right hand very early, and he rapidly learned how to type quickly using only his left hand. He kept adapting, figuring out ways todo things and then to help me do his transfers, etc until he was completely limp and on his ventilator 24/7. And still his ALS kept progressing. After about five years he developed SNP (Supra Nuclear Palsy) and lost his ability to control his eye movement. His last form of communication.

        • Fran – – I am so sorry your husband has such an aggressive form of ALS. Although it does sound like he did a good job adapting to the swift changes.

          Going back to the article: participation in athletics led the researchers to believe the pALS had more difficulty adapting to changes in balance. The key words are the researchers “suggested” this may be happening and the study was done on only 58 people. Exercise did not cause ALS and your husband’s history of exercise did not cause his symptoms to speed up. ALS is still a condition on the cellular level . I always urge folks to read these types of articles carefully and not be in a rush to extrapolate the information to their own situation. I am impressed your husband kept a positive attitude throughout and even mastered “zen running!” Bravo!

          • Thank you, Dagmar, for your thoughtful answer. I still am concerned that high level activity could impact progression, though. The study doesn’t say just balance is affected. It says that the cerebellum showed more metabolic activity in patients who had never exercised regularly. The cerebellum IS responsible for balance, but it is also responsible for other things, like coordination of voluntary movement, and also motor learning. (I tried to include a link in this reply to an article about that but your site won’t let me. Just google “functions of cerebellum”)

            The study also said that metabolism in the cerebellum correlated positively with the metabolism in the corticospinal tracts, which are the main regions we think about regarding ALS that control voluntary movement.
            It concludes: “this is the first study about the brain metabolic correlates of lifetime sport practice in ALS and suggests that patients who never practiced sports regularly might cope better with the neurodegenerative process,”

            I’m not sure precisely sure what they mean by cope but I will continue to be following this!

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