Study Finds Earlier Exposure To Fighting Linked To Worse Long Term Brain Health

In the latest data to come from the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study (PFBHS) findings were recently published in the Journal Neurology noting that there were “significant correlations” between adverse brain health based on how young fighters were when they began competing.

In the recent study titled Earlier Age of First Exposure to Competitive Fighting Has an Adverse Impact on Neuropsychiatric Symptoms and Brain Volume, the authors used available data from the PFBHS comparing fighter brains to a control group to determine if fighters had worse brain health outcomes based on the earlier they started competing. The answer was yes.

The authors examined the relationship between age of first exposure (AFE) to fighting sports and brain structure, cognitive performance, and clinical neuropsychiatric symptoms. The findings were as follows:

Brain MRI data showed significant correlations between earlier AFE and smaller bilateral hippocampal and posterior corpus callosum volumes for both retired and active fighters. Earlier AFE in active fighters was correlated with decreased processing speed and decreased psychomotor speed“.

The full abstract reads as follows:

Abstract

Objective The objective of this study was to determine whether individuals who began fighting competitively at a younger age experienced adverse brain health outcomes compared to fighters who began competing at an older age.

Background Established literature has made clear that fighting sports such as boxing and mixed martial arts can lead to head injury. Prior work from this group on the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study (PFBHS) found that exposure to repetitive head impacts is associated with lower brain volumes and decreased processing speed in fighters.

Design/Methods As part of the PFBHS, current and previously licensed professional fighters were recruited, divided into active and retired cohorts, and matched with a control group that had no prior experience in sports with likely head trauma. This present study examined the relationship between age of first exposure (AFE) to fighting sports and brain structure (MRI regional volume), cognitive performance (CNS Vital Signs, iComet C3), and clinical neuropsychiatric symptoms (PHQ-9, Barratt Impulsiveness Scale).

Results Brain MRI data showed significant correlations between earlier AFE and smaller bilateral hippocampal and posterior corpus callosum volumes for both retired and active fighters. Earlier AFE in active fighters was correlated with decreased processing speed and decreased psychomotor speed. Retired fighters showed a correlation between earlier AFE and higher measures of depression and impulsivity.

Conclusions The findings of this study help to inform clinicians, governing bodies, parents, and athletes of the risks associated with beginning to compete in fighting sports at a young age.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s