Study – One Year of Boxing Negatively Impacts Working Memory, Short-Term Memory, and Long-Term Memory

In the latest combat sports safety study findings were published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research finding that a year of boxing had measurably noticeable negative consequences for the participants memory.

In the recent study, titled Neuropsychological Study on the Effects of Boxing Upon Athletes’ Memory, the authors reviewed neuropsychological data from 28 boxers compared to a control group of 30 other non boxer athletes.

After a year of boxing the data revealed “the results of CALT1 (short-term memory), CALT8 (long-term memory), and CALT9 (recognition memory) were lower in the boxing group than that in the matched group after a year” prompting the authors to conclude that “exposure to 1 year of boxing training can impair the boxers’ working memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. Therefore, boxers should strengthen their head protection during training to avoid frequent impacts to the head.

The full abstract reads as follows:

This study attempts to explore the impairment of athletes’ memory caused by 1 year of boxing training according to the n-back test and Chinese auditory learning test (CALT). Accordingly, 58 new athletes were prospectively analyzed from a sports school, where 28 athletes who received boxing training were regarded as the exposed group and 30 athletes who received matched training were taken as unexposed group for a duration of 1 year. All participants respectively completed an n-back test (to test working memory) and a CALT test (to test short-term memory and long-term memory) before and after the training. During the tests, accuracy and reaction time from the n-back test and the correct number from CALT were recorded. The accuracy of the boxing group was observed to be lower than that of the matched group in the 2-back test (p < 0.05), whereas the reaction time of the boxing group was longer than that of the matched group (p < 0.05) after a year of boxing practice. The results of CALT1 (short-term memory), CALT8 (long-term memory), and CALT9 (recognition memory) were lower in the boxing group than that in the matched group after a year (p < 0.05).

The results suggest that exposure to 1 year of boxing training can impair the boxers’ working memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. Therefore, boxers should strengthen their head protection during training to avoid frequent impacts to the head.


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