Updated 23 Jan 08
ALS and the WARRIOR ARCHETYPE: STUDIES
A Supporting Proposition: ALS is associated with the warrior archetype of de-voted physical action, that is, with the warrior morphic/memory field.
The evidence, which includes both warriors on the battlefield and on the athletic field, is based on several scientific studies plus what we are calling "Informal Studies of Famous People."
1. ALS is more common in men , by a factor of at least 2:1. (Perhaps the corresponding dis-ease that is more common in women and that also affects movement is the auto-immune dis-ease, multiple sclerosis. Both ALS and MS manifest at about the same frequency of about 5,000 new cases per year in the US of each dis-ease.)
2. Men who were veterans of W.W.I, W.W.II, the Korean War and the Vietnam war had a 1.5 increased risk of dying from ALS (Harvard cohort study of over 500,000 men; the journal Neurology, March, 2005).
The increased risk of ALS was: (a) the same whichever military service the veteran had been in: Army, Navy, Air Force, National Guard, or Coast Guard, but not for the Marines and (b) largely independent of the number of years served in the military.
However, the risk of ALS increased steadily with the number of periods of war during a persons period of military service.
These findings argue against the role of unknown environmental factors specific to the Gulf War period.
3. Gulf War veterans were roughly twice as likely to get ALS as non Gulf War veterans. This varied by service: Air Force Gulf War veterans about 2.7 times that of non Gulf War veterans; Army Gulf War veterans about 2 times that of non Gulf War veterans; Navy and Marine Gulf War veterans about the same rate as of non Gulf War veterans.
The study concluded "the observed incidence of ALS in young Gulf War veterans exceeded the expected, suggesting a war-related environmental trigger." (The journal Neurology, 2003.)
4. Italian professional soccer players contracted ALS at a rate 6.5 times as great as the general population. The increased risk was also dose-related: the longer an athlete played, the greater his risk of contracting ALS. Moreover, the mean age at which the athletes developed ALS was 43 years, twenty years younger than the general population. (The journal Brain, March, 2005.)
5. ALS was more common in men who had been thin (2.21 times), and in men who had been varsity athletes (1.70 times). (The journal Neurology, 2002.) In contrast, a recent Dutch study showed that increased physical or athletic activity is not a risk factor for ALS. (The journal Neurology, March, 2005.)
6. In two studies, airline pilots had about a two-fold risk of developing or dying from ALS. (Increased rates of ALS have also been reported in electrical utility workers.)
Some Generalizations from the Scientific Studies:
For both warriors on the battlefield and warriors on the athletic field the risk of ALS was: (a) "dose related" and (b) associated with an earlier onset. Veterans who served during more than one war period and the longer playing Italian professional soccer players had higher ALS risks. In both the Gulf War veterans and the Italian professional soccer players the mean age of onset of ALS was earlier than in the general population.
Both the Harvard and the Gulf War veterans studies suggest a "war-related environmental trigger." The Italian professional soccer players are apparently experiencing this war-related environmental trigger on the athletic field at about six times the expected rate.
Rates of ALS in Selected Warrior Populations
Just as more Type A personality traits increase the risk of heart disease, it is likely that highly selected populations of warriors would show higher rates of ALS.
For example, it is relatively easy to become a veteran of World War II, the Korean, Vietnam or Gulf wars, and their rate of ALS is about 1.5 - 2 times the expected rate. Similarly, the rate of ALS of varsity athletes is about 1.7 times the expected rate.
Italian professional soccer players are a much more highly selected warrior population, and their rate of ALS is about six times the expected rate. American NFL football players are perhaps an even more highly selected warrior population, and their rate of ALS is reported to be about 40 times the expected rate.
Excluding Plausible Physical Factors in ALS Warrior Populations
The recent article by Abel, cited below, gives a more complete discussion of the issues of physical activity and sports-related trauma. His article concludes with ...(As to the etiology of ALS) "Trauma is another obvious possibility, especially in the context of sports like football. Although trauma was suggested as a cause of ALS almost 100 years ago (Woods, 1911), pertinent studies have been inconclusive (Riggs, 1996). Were physical trauma a contributing factor, one would expect a relatively high prevalence of ALS among boxers and wrestlers. However, only one professional boxer (Ezzard Charles) is known to have had ALS.
Given the results of the present study, coupled with the results from the study of Italian soccer players, there may be a link between ALS and certain sports that warrants attention."
Informal Studies of Famous People
These informal studies, although not definitive, are consistent with the scientific studies, and they suggest that the warrior archetype is associated with ALS and the statesman archetype with Parkinson's dis-ease - the other neurological dis-ease of aging that affects movement.
The studies speak to the question, "who's getting what dis-ease" and they provide some background on these famous people including group membership. The lists include all famous people with the dis-eases that we know of from general knowledge and from searching the net.
Famous American Men having ALS:
Warriors on the Athletic Field
Including several professional football players
Warriors on the Battlefield
Of these 32 American men having ALS, 21 or 65% qualify as warriors on the athletic or battle-field. Under the broader definition of devoted physical action, the musicians and theater people would also qualify as warriors.
It is unclear why so many of the athletes are football players, but not baseball, basketball, or tennis players.
Other Very Famous Non-American Men having ALS
Famous People Having Parkinson's Dis-ease
Parkinson's is the other neurological dis-ease of aging that affects movement. It is at least ten times more frequent than ALS, and does not have as clear cut increased frequency in men as does ALS.
Of the 16 men on this list, at most four qualify as warriors--MacArthur, Ali, Walker and maybe Castro. MacArthur is the lone military person, and Ali and Walker, the only two athletes.
The list contains more political, religious or social leaders, that is, those of the statesman archetype.
In this connection, at an International Symposium on Parkinson's dis-ease held in Tokyo Japan in August, 2000, "Abraham Lieberman lectured about the many well known people who who have Parkinson's. He stated that a question arises as to whether this is a chance phenomena. Parkinson's is a disease of older people, a certain percentage of older people will have become famous (or infamous) before or shortly after they develop Parkinson's. Examining people who were Time Magazine's MAN OF THE YEAR, 7% of these famous people had Parkinson's, 7 times higher than would be expected by chance."
Another consequence of these Informal Studies of Famous People is that the glutamate synapse of ALS would be associated with the warrior archetype, and the dopamine synapse of Parkinson's dis-ease with the statesman archetype. And in terms of healing, different "synapse places" would correspond to different synapses.
Do American football players have an increased rate of ALS?
We have found eleven cases of ALS in NFL, or almost NFL, American football players who played from the mid 1960's through the mid 1990's. This putative excess of ALS was not found in professional baseball, basketball, golf, or tennis players.
The study of Italian professional soccer players that found a six fold increased rate of ALS was based on 18 cases in more than 7,000 players over a roughly 30 year period. This is equivalent to nine cases per 3,500 players. A three fold increased rate of ALS corresponds to nine cases in the original 7,000 players.
In comparison, if there were about 3,500 NFL players during a 30 year period, the nine NFL cases would also correspond to a six fold increased rate of ALS in NFL football players; if there were 7,000 NFL players in the study period, the increased rate would be three fold; if there were about 10,000 NFL players in the study period, the increased rate would be about two fold - about the same as in Gulf War veterans; if there were at most 14,000 NFL players during the study period, the increased rate would be about 1.5 times - about the same as in the recent longitudinal Harvard veterans study.
(League expansion during the 1970's-90's makes it difficult to know the total number of NFL players.)
Another argument is based on the annual incidence of ALS.
The annual incidence of ALS is at most 2 cases per 100,000 people per year. Over a 30-year period, that incidence would produce at most 60 cases of ALS per 100,000 people.
For a sample of, say 7,000 people, over a 30-year period, one would expect 60 cases times 7,000/100,000 or about 4.2 cases. We found at least double that number in the NFL players from the mid-1960's to the mid-1990's.
This question deserves immediate systematic study.
Since we did the above work in 2005, a recent study by Abel has shown that ALS is more prevalent in American professional (NFL) football players:
A recent study also found a small cluster of ALS in a group of amateur soccer players in southern England: