Fighters suffer from brain damage before symptoms appear

There’s been a lot of concern about concussions among kids and adults who play contact sports. So it caught my attention when a new study was presented to the American Academy of Neurology. The study looks at boxers, and it finds that three parts of the brain begin to shrink after years of repeated injury.

The Los Angeles Times reports, “A yearlong study of boxers’ and mixed martial-arts fighters’ brain activity has found those who fight for more than six years begin to experience damage and those who fight longer than 12 years expose themselves to an even greater decline each time they return to the ring.”

By studying “MRIs and computerized and cognitive tests of an estimated 170 fighters at the Cleveland Clinic’s Las Vegas center in the past year,” the study’s lead author, Charles Bernick, MD, associate director of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, “was hoping to help establish the threshold neurologists can use to determine the start of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease.”

The CNN “The Chart” blog notes that “what the study cannot yet account for is what makes one fighter more susceptible to” chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) “than another. Findings in the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study will later include factors such as genetics, proteins in the blood, speech analysis, educational level, and other factors that could paint a more vivid picture of the disease.”

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