As previously discussed intense and frequent sparring can have more negative effects on brain function than the frequency of knockouts in competition. A further study addressing the effects of cumulative subconcussive hits was recently published in the journal Neurology. You can find an abstract of the study here.
The author compared a group of NCAA hockey and football players to a group of non contact sport NCAA athletes. The contact athletes wore instrumented helmets which recorded the acceleration-time history of the head following impact. The athletes undertook cognitive tests before and after the season. A higher percentage of the contact sport athletes performed more poorly than predicted during the post season tests. New learning was effected. There was a relationship between the poorer scores and “higher scores on several head impact exposure metrics.“.
In a further study published this week it is reported that a season of hard hits comes with measurable changes in the brain’s white matter with the Concussion Policy and the Law Blog reporting that “the degree of white matter change in the contact sport athletes was greater in those who performed more poorly than expected on tests of memory and learning, suggesting a possible link in some athletes between how hard/often they are hit, white matter changes, and cognition, or memory and thinking abilities.”
The bottom line is that hard sparring takes its toll. The brain can only take a finite number of jostles before negative repercussions take place. Combat athletes would do well to not only be aware of this but to spar smart and not expose themselves to unneeded damage while training.