Common genetic basis of ALS patients and soccer players may contribute to disease risk

Sigal Ben-Zaken*, Beatrice Nefussy, Yoav Meckel, Alon Eliakim, Dan Nemet, Marc Gotkine, Dana Lorber, Aviva Zeev, Vivian E. Drory

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The aim of the present study was to determine the prevalence of the ACSL A/G single nucleotide polymorphism among athletes and patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder of motor neurons that leads to paralysis and death usually within 3–5 years from onset. Previous epidemiological studies reported a higher risk of ALS among soccer players. The ACSL (long-chain-fatty-acid-CoA ligase 1) gene codes the long-chain fatty-acid-coenzyme A ligase family that plays a key role in lipid biosynthesis and fatty acid oxidation. The ACSL A/G polymorphism is associated with endurance trainability. Methods: One hundred and seventy-eight ALS patients, 172 athletes (60 soccer players, 112 middle- and long-distance runners), and 111 nonathletic controls participated in the study. Genomic DNA was extracted from blood or buccal cells according to the salting-out procedure. Genotypes were determined using the TaqMan allelic discrimination assay. Results: The prevalence of the ACSL AA genotype was significantly higher among soccer players (35.0%) and ALS patients (39.3%) compared to runners (16.1%) and controls (18.0%). However, ALS GG carriers had a higher mortality rate. Conclusion: We postulate that soccer players and ALS patients carry a common genetic predisposition that is related to impaired fatty acid utilization. Moreover, while the A allele might be associated with a genetic predisposition toward ALS, especially among soccer players, the G allele might be associated with disease severity. Further research is needed in order to explore the role of the ACSL rs6552828 polymorphism in ALS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4231-4238
Number of pages8
JournalNeurological Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • ACSL
  • ALS
  • Genetic polymorphism
  • Soccer


Dive into the research topics of 'Common genetic basis of ALS patients and soccer players may contribute to disease risk'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this