Adding to this site’s database of combat sports safety studies, a recent study was published in the Journal Neurology looking at the relationship between fighter brain health and weight class.
In the recent study, titled Effect of Professional Fighters’ Weight Class on Regional Brain Volume, Cognition, and Other Neuropsychiatric Outcomes, the authors looked at data from the athletes participating in the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study. MRI data from 104 MMA fighters and 53 boxers were compared. The authors broke the fighters down into three weight categories to see if there was a relationship between fighter weight class and brain health. The results were scattered with the heavier fighters losing more brain volume year over year than the lighter fighters. They also showed greater yearly reduction in cognitive performance year over year.
The lighter fighters, however, suffered greater reductions in regional brain volume on a per-fight basis.
The authors speculated that weight cutting may play a role in greater per fight brain volume reduction in lighter fighters opining as follows “Although more research is needed, greater per-fight decrements in lightweights may be related to practices of weight-cutting, which may increase vulnerability to neurodegeneration post-TBI. Observed decrements associated with weight class may result in progressive impairments in fighter performance, suggesting interventions mitigating the burden of TBI in professional fighters may both improve brain health and increase professional longevity.“
The full abstract can be found here.