Study – MRI and Neuropsychological Testing “Could Not Detect any Evidence of Brain Injury”in Boxers

Adding to this site’s archived combat sports safety studies a recent study was published at the University of Cambridge discussing the efficacy of MRI and Neuropsychological testing to detect early signs of brain damage in amateur boxers.

In the study, titled “Advanced magnetic resonance imaging and neuropsychological assessment for detecting brain injury in a prospective cohort of university amateur boxers” the authors queried whether early brain injury could be detected using this combination of diagnostic tools.

40 amateur boxers were recruited although only 10 stayed in the study to its conclusion contributing the needed longitudinal assessment protocol.

The authors concluded that this combination of testing “could not detect any evidence of brain injury” in the participants.

Below is the study’s full abstract –

Abstract
Background/aim:Background/aim: The safety of amateur and professional boxing is a contentious issue. We hypothesised that advanced magnetic resonance imaging and neuropsychological testing could provide evidence of acute and early brain injury in amateur boxers. Methods:Methods: We recruited 30 participants from a university amateur boxing club in a prospective cohort study. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and neuropsychological testing was performed at three time points: prior to starting training; within 48 hours following a first major competition to detect acute brain injury; and one year follow-up. A single MRI acquisition was made from control participants. Imaging analysis included cortical thickness measurements with Advanced Normalization Tools (ANTS) and FreeSurfer, voxel based morphometry (VBM), and Tract Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS). A computerized battery of neuropsychological tests was performed assessing attention, learning, memory and impulsivity. Results:Results: During the study period, one boxer developed seizures controlled with medication while another developed a chronic subdural hematoma requiring neurosurgical drainage. A total of 10 boxers contributed data at to the longitudinal assessment protocol. Reasons for withdrawal were: logistics (10), stopping boxing (7), withdrawal of consent (2), and development of a chronic subdural hematoma (1). No significant changes were detected using VBM, TBSS, cortical thickness measured with FreeSurfer or ANTS, either cross-sectionally at baseline, or longitudinally. Neuropsychological assessment of boxers found attention/concentration improved over time while planning and problem solving ability latency decreased after a bout but recovered after one year. Conclusion:Conclusion: While this neuroimaging and neuropsychological assessment protocol could not detect any evidence of brain injury, one boxer developed seizures and another developed a chronic sub-dural haematoma.
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