Study Finds More Educated Fighters Getting Less CTE

CTE has no cure. The disease is linked to repeated head trauma. Athletes can improve their chances of not getting the disease by making choices to be exposed to fewer impacts over the course of their career. A recent study was published showing that fighters with more education are doing exactly that leading to less CTE.

In the recent study, titled Traumatic Encephalopathy Syndrome in a cohort of Professional Fighters, the authors reviewed 176 combat sports athletes (boxers and MMA fighters). Of the group 72 were diagnosed with Traumatic Encephalopathy Syndrome (the label used for people suspected to have CTE).

When comparing those with TES to those without it the authors found those without it were more educated, started their combat sports careers later and had fewer competitions. In short educated choices that led to better outcomes.

There is no cure for CTE. There is a cure for ignorance. The better information fighters have about brain health the better choices they can make about their informed participation in the sports. Education is power.

Presently Athletic Commissions do not require combat sports participants to demonstrate any level of brain health knowledge. Changing this would be a simple reform that can go a long way in helping participants make better choices in their careers. A simple reform that can go a long way to improve fighter brain health.

Below is the studies abstract:

Objective: To identify imaging and cognitive differences between those with and without Traumatic Encephalopathy Syndrome (TES) in a cohort of professional fighters.

Background: Recent consensus research criteria have been published for TES, which is intended to represent the clinical syndrome for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. It is unknown if TES differentiates a group with unique imaging or cognitive features.

Design/Methods: 176 boxers and mixed martial artists, 35 years of age and older, comprised the study group. Each participant was classified into TES or non-TES categories based on NINDS consensus criteria for TES and utilizing data obtained from the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study. Participants underwent longitudinal MRI brain imaging, with regional volume segmentation using Freesurfer v.6. Cognitive assessments were obtained using CNS Vital Signs computerized battery. Analyses were performed to determine the differences between the TES and non-TES groups on MRI regional volumes and cognitive function at baseline and longitudinally.

Results: There were 72 TES and 104 non-TES participants. The non-TES group was younger (mean 43.1 years v. 47.6), more educated (mean 13.7 years v. 12.7, started fighting at a later age (18.8 years v. 14 ) and had less competitions (23.2 pro bouts v. 38.9). At baseline, the TES group had lower regional volumes bilateral thalami and hippocampi; posterior corpus callosum; total white matter volume; subcortical and total gray volume; and elevated lateral ventricular volume. At baseline, slower responses were seen in simple and choice reaction time, trails A & B, and psychomotor and processing speed. The TES group also demonstrated longitudinal volume decline in bilateral thalami and hippocampi and longitudinal enlargement of lateral ventricular volume. Longitudinal decline in choice reaction time and processing speed was observed in the TES group.

Conclusions: The recent NINDS consensus criteria for TES does identify a group with significant differences in imaging and cognitive findings at baseline and subsequent trajectories.


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