Study – Observable Brain Damage Different in Active vs Retired Professional Fighters

The Professional Fighters Brain Health Study is generating some of the most interesting data and insights into the harm combative sports athletes expose themselves to in their vocation.

The most recent revelation from this ongoing study is that the pattern of brain damage appears to change in active vs retired fighters.

The latest study, titled “Regional brain atrophy in professional fighters Different patterns, different mechanisms?” was published this week in the journal of Neurology.  In the study the authors assessed a total of 204 individuals composed of

  • 50 current boxers who had a median of 5 fights
  • 23 retired boxers who had a median of 38 fights
  • 100 Mixed Martial Artists with a median of 7.5 fights
  • 31 individuals in a control group comprised of non fighters with no history of brain trauma

Current boxers and Mixed Martial Artists showed increase loss of brain volume in the left thalamus, the mid-anterior corpus callosum and the central corpus callosum than the control group.

Retired boxers, interestingly, did not have changes in those areas of the brain, but had small losses of brain volume in the left and right amygdala and the right hippocampus. These are areas of the brain most affected in Alzheimer’s and CTE.

In discussing the potential significance of these findings study author Dr. Charles Bernick from the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas noted “More research is needed to confirm these findings and to see if this pattern of loss of brain volume continues over a longer time period, but the results suggest that people with repeated head impacts may experience different processes in the brain at different times“.


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