Healthy Living

Golfer Morgan Hoffman Reveals that He Has Muscular Dystrophy

Golfer Morgan Hoffman Reveals that He Has Muscular Dystrophy

Photo: Golfer Morgan Hoffman. Source: Tulsa World.

For many individuals in the world, muscular dystrophy is a condition that can severely incapacitate them and render them unable to perform tasks that other healthy individuals will have no problem with.

Athletes and individuals who play a sport or discipline, in particular, will arguably be more affected by the disease, which is what makes Morgan Hoffman’s tale that much more amazing. Hoffman is a golfer that, in 2016 received a muscular dystrophy diagnosis: an event which would change his life — and career — forever.

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In most cases, muscular dystrophy is the name that a group of over 30 diseases that cause muscle weakness and loss of muscle mass receive. Most of these conditions develop during the subject’s infancy or childhood, with a number of these also developing in the individual’s teen years or adulthood. The type of dystrophy, as well as its symptoms, will vary from person to person. However, the factor in which most of these coincide is that the severity of the condition worsens as the muscles weaken, until the day when the person eventually loses the capacity to perform even the simplest tasks with the affected muscles. In most cases, this results in the person being rendered unable to walk in the latter phases of the condition.

Other elements that all forms of muscular dystrophy share are that they are all myopathies, which means that they affect primarily the muscles. Furthermore, they all have their origins in the person’s genome, which means that they are mostly inherited from their parents. In each and every case, the disease is progressive, and will often evolve to the point where any type of voluntary movements become impossible, due to loss of striated muscle tissue.

The muscle loss commonly associated with these conditions usually happen progressively, as the affected striated muscle tissues (the ones responsible for the body’s voluntary movements) are destroyed and subsequently replaced by adipose tissue. These diseases are characterized by alterations in the muscle’s protein makeup, which cause the death of their cells and the subsequent permanent debilitation of the individual. Though the symptoms are usually mild and can worsen as time goes by, the real risk of muscular dystrophy arises when the heart is targeted by the disease, which may cause the person to suffer from cardiac insufficiency, or heart weakness, and possibly lead to an early death.

Unfortunately, there are no definitive cures for this condition. Those who are struggling with muscular dystrophy have to adopt certain habits and follow medical treatment plans to impede the progress of the disease and to reduce the extent of their symptoms. Luckily, it is very much possible to live a full life with muscular dystrophy, and even continue to partake in diverse physical activities, despite the presence of the disease. This is a fact best represented in the case of Morgan Hoffman, a professional golfer.

In 2016, Hoffman (at 28 years of age) received his formal diagnosis of Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy (FSHD). He had already been struggling with the disease in the past since 2011 when he experienced the debilitation and slow decay of his right pectoral muscle due to his condition. As many may know, golf is a sport that requires great core strength, as well as careful coordination between the upper and lower extremities, all of which are skills that those suffering from any type of muscular dystrophy will arguably have trouble with. Nevertheless, despite his diagnosis, the professional PGA Tour golfer kept his condition hidden for over a year and continued to actively participate in the tournaments and competitions, with great success.

The most common type of muscular dystrophy, to date, is Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which affects only male subjects from an early age and is transmitted by their mothers. Those who suffer from this variation of muscular dystrophy seldom live past their teen years, making it one of the most deadly types of MD. FSHD, the type of MD that Hoffman is struggling with, affects mostly the muscles of the chest, face, and arms. Luckily, it rarely affects the muscles of the heart or lungs, so its prognosis is not immediately fatal. However, the weakness is just as severe as with other types of MD, which makes Hoffman’s story that much more impressive.

The only known way to counteract and improve the symptoms of muscular dystrophy, in general, by adopting practices to slow down the progression of the disease. Said methods may include the use of orthopedics to assist in posture and walking, as well as attending regular physical therapy and speech therapy sessions to slow or even prevent the degeneration of the person’s capabilities. It’s worth noting that, while some forms of MD are mild, and evolve very slowly, others can be particularly troublesome, as they can affect important muscles from their onset, and progress very quickly.

In order to cushion the impact of the disease, the person must work to strengthen the muscles unaffected by their type of muscular dystrophy, as forcing the exercise of affected structures will only cause them to produce painful cramps, and will rarely reap any significant rewards. Furthermore, if pain becomes a significant obstacle for the strengthening of any structures, in particular, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication will really come in handy, as it will help to stave off cramp-related pains and aching.

Furthermore, according to Catherine Alessi, MD, of the University of Connecticut, recent studies are working towards isolating the gene involved in some variations of FSHD. Specifically, discoveries made in chromosome 4, and related to the development of the disease have helped to increase our understanding of FSHD, and will hopefully lead to genetic treatments to counteract or eliminate it entirely.