Study hints brain damage before symptoms show

by Lance Pugmire | source:

A yearlong study of boxers' and mixed martial-arts fighters' brain activity has found those who fight for more than six years begin to experience damage and those who fight longer than 12 years expose themselves to an even greater decline each time they return to the ring.

"What we've found suggests changes and damage in the brain happens years before symptoms emerge," said Dr. Charles Bernick, author of the study. "It's what we see in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients."

Bernick has supervised MRIs and computerized and cognitive tests of an estimated 170 fighters at the Cleveland Clinic's Las Vegas center in the past year.

"If we're going to protect these athletes, we need to follow them earlier in their course," Bernick said.

Bernick said the study found fighters begin losing brain volume — as brain cells die — after six years of fighting.

"We still need to follow these guys over time," Bernick said. "If someone's having damage, a commission might want to limit the number of fights he has. There is a hierarchy of protective things, interventions to help. This is still being sorted out.

"We are looking at this 'threshold effect.' How much punishment can a brain take? What are the markers we can see for long-term problems?"

The study received a $12-million boost in funding earlier this year from a Las Vegas dinner and auction. One of the highlights of the night was Ultimate Fighting Championship Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta outbidding Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, spending $1.1 million for a pair of autographed gloves belonging to Muhammad Ali.

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Recent Comments »

sly fox site profile image  

4/19/12 7:47 PM by sly fox

 texas requires fighters over 35 have their brains scanned every 6 months, it costs over 1k a time, so even as an ammy you have to do that... using a 35 year old age margin has always seemed a bit ridiculous...maybe they should change it to 6 years of fighting

Kingtony87 site profile image  

4/19/12 6:43 PM by Kingtony87

I'd like see them do a similar study on the effects of football/hockey have on the brain, should the limit the amount of games played? where does regulation impinge on freedom

Bearded Collie Herds Orca site profile image  

4/19/12 6:26 PM by Bearded Collie Herds Orca

Naive, anti-science rhetoric. Perhaps you should publish your sophisticated critique in the same journal they published the original study? I hope I am being trolled, because I really hope that people smart enough to type sentences don't think this way.

UGCTT_GRIZZLY_ADAMS site profile image  

4/19/12 4:32 PM by UGCTT_GRIZZLY_ADAMS

Dumbest law ever. Period.

Porkchop site profile image  

4/19/12 3:38 PM by Porkchop

so you are implying that being able to ride your motorcycle without a helmet on is a perfect law without flaw....what about the families of the person who gets brain damage from an accident without a helmet and has to wipe his ass for the rest of his life because his brain is too fucked up to do basic daily tasks?or the kids who are robbed of their mother or father and are left with a vegetative shell of what they were.I'm not saying that I know any answer and i'm not saying that there is anything that can be done to stop professional fighters from accumulating damage.... but that helmet is definitely not a perfect law.

goku site profile image  

4/19/12 12:54 PM by goku


sacredhate site profile image  

4/19/12 11:30 AM by sacredhate

in states where people are allowed to ride a motorcycles without helmets are the number of miles they are allowed to ride, or the type of road they are allowed on restricted?

goku site profile image  

4/19/12 11:20 AM by goku

 tighten up...will it eliminate head injuries? no...but they should take reasonable measures to try to decrease the amount of fighters that are going to end up with severe brain injuries...testing adequately so that fighters do not have an illegal unfair advantage is one such reasonable measure they should take

ChipW site profile image  

4/19/12 10:42 AM by ChipW

Are you saying they need to legalize PEDs or are you saying they need to tighten up on testing?

French Fries Malone site profile image  

4/19/12 10:38 AM by French Fries Malone

Do you doubt mma is just as bad, how Many mma fighters train boxing?