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Huntington's Disease

Huntington's Disease and Basketball

08/19/2008

Question:

What kind of affects does HD have on sports such as basketball? Could it cause one to collapse?

Answer:

There is not a lot of data on exercise and individuals with Huntington's Disease. Most data on the mouse model of Huntington's Disease suggests that regular voluntary exercise may slow the onset and progression of motor symptoms of the disorder and may slow cognitive decline. Many of my patients are involved in a variety of athletic activities. We usually encourage individuals to exercise regularly. Balance problems and coordination issues in the later stages of disease need to be considered when choosing type of exercise to pursue. There may be more risk if one is "out of shape" or dehydrated or has other medical problems, and these issues need to be addressed on an individual basis.

I found one reference in the scientific literature that refers to a professional marathon runner who developed increased muscle fatigue and myopathy after what was apparently a long history of heavy running. I do not think that there has been much experience with "collapse" in HD specifically related to exercise such as playing basketball.

I am not sure what you mean by "collapse" and playing basketball. Do you mean "passing out" or extreme exhaustion and pain or a cardiac arrhythmia? There are many medical conditions aside from HD that can affect exercise ability and safety, and each individual's case should be assessed independently. A thorough check-up by a primary care physician and perhaps also an evaluation by a neurologist should be considered before engaging in strenuous activity.

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Response by:

Sandra  K Kostyk, MD, PhD Sandra K Kostyk, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neuroscience
Clinical Assistant Professor of Neurology
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University