A pioneering study on boxers has found that their brains undergo changes after repeated blows, changes before they show any symptoms, according to a story this week in The New York Times.
The article was about research being conducted by the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. The work is the year-old Professional Fighters Brain Health Study, and includes data from more than 100 fighters, according to The Times. Dr. Charles Bernick reported on the research’s findings so far Wednesday at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in New Orleans.
The study is being touted as unique in that it entails a big group of athletes who repeatedly sustain brain injury, who are then being given MRI scans and cognitive tests. The research is also gauging the long-term impact of “constant lesser blows” to the brain as opposed to just “infrequent, hard blows,” The Times reported.
The takeaway is that MRI scans are finding physical changes in boxers’ brains before they show symptoms such as memory loss. The Times reported that the hippocampus and thalamus, which govern memory, get smaller in boxers who have been fighting for more than six years.
In turn, fighters who had boxed more than 12 years have cognitive problems, according to The Times.
What’s the significance of these findings?
“The idea that an MRI could help identify a degenerative brain disorder before a patient reports cognitive problems could help a broad range of people, from young athletes and combat soldiers … There may also be implications for understanding Alzheimer’s,” The Times wrote.
It is interesting research, and could turn out to be an important study.