Muscular dystrophy is a progressive disorder that results in severe disability and in some forms, death. The fact that it targets muscle and causes wasting and weakness makes the announcement this month that a competitive PGA Tour golfer has been suffering from a form of muscular dystrophy for more than a year amazing.
Morgan Hoffman is a 28-year-old professional golfer who in November, 2016, was diagnosed with Fascioscaphohumeral Muscular Dystrophy (FSHD). He recounts his odyssey in a first person account in The Players’ Tribune beginning with his earliest symptom of wasting of his right pectoral (chest) muscle in 2011.
Muscular dystrophy was first described in the mid-1800s as a progressive wasting of muscles seen in male members of the same family. This eventually became known as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the most well-known and deadly of this category of diseases.
FSHD is a variation of muscular dystrophy that targets the face, arms and chest muscles. It does not affect respiratory or cardiac muscles, thus it does not limit a person’s longevity. It does result in profound weakness, making a continued successful career in professional sports remarkable.
Physical therapy should be aimed towards optimizing function of unaffected muscles. Overworking involved muscles will not improve strength but will lead to painful muscle cramps. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be used if pain is a factor.
“Isolation of the gene involved in some forms of FSHD on chromosome 4 has lead to exciting research and hopefully a genetic treatment for FSHD,” reports Catherine Alessi, MD, a neuromuscular fellow at the University of Connecticut.
Golf requires core strength and careful coordination of upper and lower extremity muscles making Hoffman’s success noteworthy and encouraging for others.
Dr. Alessi is a neurologist in Norwich and serves as an on-air contributor for ESPN. He is director of UConn NeuroSport and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org