Study reports decrease in brain size after 5 years of fighting


A long term study in brain trauma and professional fighters is underway in Las Vegas, Nevada. A preliminary paper has been published, with some sobering results.

The study concluded that the volumes of important regions of the brain and the functional connections between them were decreased in amateur and professional fighters with the most experience.

These data and conclusions should be considered to be preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

There was unfortunately no distinction made between MMA fighters and professional boxers. Given the differences in rules and goals between the sports, and the vast differences in typical amateur career, grouping them does not seem rational.

Among 104 boxers and 135 mixed martial arts competitors, the number of years of pro fighting correlated significantly with reduced volume in the caudate and amygdala, and strong trends were seen toward smaller volumes in the thalamus and putamen, reported Sarah Banks, PhD, of the Cleveland Clinic's Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas.

Resting state functional MRI scans also indicated a correlation between lower connectivity between regions and the amount of fighting experience, she told attendees at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting.

Longitudinal data are not yet available, but Banks provided a largely qualititative overview of the cross-sectional data collected in the project so far.

The average career length at enrollment was 4 years and the mean number of self-reported fights was 11. Banks noted that the frequency of fights varied considerably, such that career length and number of fights did not correlate exactly.

Up to about year 5 of fight experience, volumes of all regions did not vary.

With experience beyond year 5, however, volumes declined -- most sharply for the caudate region of the brain. In that region, volumes were 10% lower in participants with 15 years of experience compared with those fighting for 5 years or less.

Volumes were lower by about 5% for the amygdala and putamen.

There was a lesser trend toward smaller volumes with experience in the thalamus and no hint of a relationship in the hippocampus.

Caudate volumes and years of fighting experience were more strongly related in participants who said they began fighting in earnest at age 15 or younger, Banks said. In that subgroup, caudate volumes were smaller by 0.37% for each bout reported by participants. In contrast, the reduction was only 0.10% per bout for participants who said they began fighting after age 15.

Read entire article...

Primary Source reference:
Bernick C, et al "Structural and Functional Brain Changes in Boxers and Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Are Correlated with Fight Exposure" AAN 2013; Abstract S54.006.


tags: Medical   


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Recent Comments »

Stone Rolled site profile image  

3/27/13 9:15 PM by Stone Rolled

I understand where you're coming from. But there's a clear distinction between MMA and prostitution. I Corinthians 6:15-17 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.You can tell the difference between sex with a prostitute and fighting. Can't you? The distinction is clear in the bible. You may believe MMA is a sin, but don't lump it in the same category as prostitution.

jiujitsufigher7 site profile image  

3/27/13 12:54 PM by jiujitsufigher7

There's a difference between being a soldier and defending your country (or the people of God) as you quote David in Psalms 144:1 and being a prize fighter for entertainment of the crowds. Prize fighting were you sell your body to entertain people and in the process you sustain brain injuries or cause brain injury to an opponent in exchange for money can be compared to prostitution, in that both professions abuse their bodies which are the temple of the holy spirit in exchange for money. Bear in mind the purpose of prize fighting is to hurt your opponent physically, no man can glorify God in such activity. And neither can prostitutes in their trade, both prize fighting and prostitution have in common the selling of your body for profit in order to entertain somebody.

KingInFishnetsBottomingBetas site profile image  

3/27/13 12:53 PM by KingInFishnetsBottomingBetas

Hmm what's safer? 10 count? Or a guy eating 10 shots when he's asleep?

TexDeuce site profile image  

3/27/13 12:41 PM by TexDeuce

I have never seen evidence of people being hurt long term by being choked too much. Is there any? I doubt it.

eljamaiquino site profile image  

3/27/13 12:13 PM by eljamaiquino

No 10 count in mma. Guy gets knocked stupid, fight over. In boxing a guy gets koed, wakes up at 5, stands back up, gets koed again, wakes at 6, finishes the 12 round. But he was never "KOED", yeah right......

eljamaiquino site profile image  

3/27/13 12:08 PM by eljamaiquino

Studies have been done on Judo competitors on chokes. No lasting damage shown. Bjj players may get choked more often though. .

TexDeuce site profile image  

3/27/13 11:48 AM by TexDeuce

Everyone knows the risks. Same as everyone that plays football knows they might get paralyzed. The same as people in the military know if they go outside the wire they have a chance of getting killed. A lot of jobs/sports have risk. It is up to you how much you want to take on. Also, I have no doubt boxers are in FAR WORSE shape than MMA guys. Especially the guys from a wrestling or BJJ background. Boxing is probably the absolute worst sport in the world for your brain. But I don't think it should be banned.

Herman Munster site profile image  

3/27/13 10:39 AM by Herman Munster

I wouldn't say mma fighters take less damage.  If you are an aspiring mma fighter, you are sparring with boxers, you are sparring with Thai boxers, kickboxers, etc.  it's not just padded gloves rattling your brain around,but shin bones that have the potential to come crashing into your skull.  Mma kids are kidding themselves if they think they are really at any less risk.

Herman Munster site profile image  

3/27/13 10:33 AM by Herman Munster

It's very simple.  Unless you can make a lucrative living by exposing your brain to this kind trauma, it's time to really take a good look at your priorities.  If you are the guy who loves to train fierce combat spots, but not necessarily the guy who wants to compete, but you still spar with savages on a regular, well lets just say I'm happy I gave that one up when I did, and did not prolong that.  If you are one of those who is prolonging it for no worthwhile reason, other than its your passion to use your brain that way so you can get some recreation and feel confident in your skills at the club on a Saturday night, well, you just aren't very bright.  Now anyways, lets get back to more important things like bashing GSP for not taking enough risks like Wand, because damn it, i paid $50 for a PPV and I am entitled to be entertained at the sake of someone else's potential brain damage.

ihitpeople site profile image  

3/27/13 5:50 AM by ihitpeople

MMA fighters may take less damage, but they cut an ungodly amount water. A dehydrated brain is easier to damage. But then again, one head kick( about three times as heavy as a punch) can cause permanent damage.