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New study suggests that starting point of brain injury may be detectible in boxers

A news release today by the American Academy of Neurology in conjunction with their 64th Annual Meeting to be held in New Orleans from April 21 to April 28, 2012 discusses a new study which will be presented that suggests there may be a detectible  starting point at which blows to the head or other head trauma suffered in sports such a boxing start to affect memory and thinking abilities and can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), in the brain. 


This study has important implications for all professional sports such as football and hockey plagued by an epidemic of traumatic brain injury.


"While we already know that boxing and other combat sports are linked to brain damage, little is known about how this process develops and who may be on the path to developing CTE, which is a degenerative brain disease found in athletes and others with a history of multiple concussions and brain damage," said study author Charles Bernick, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. CTE is only diagnosed through autopsy after death, but symptoms include memory loss, aggression and difficulty thinking.


The study involved 35 boxers and 43 mixed martial arts athletes with an average age of 29 who were part of the ongoing Professional Fighters Brain Health Study. The fighters were given computer tests that measured memory and thinking skills and underwent MRI brain scans. Years of fighting and number of fights were recorded based on self-reporting and published records. 


The fighters were then split into two groups: those who fought for nine or fewer years and those with more than nine years of fighting history. 


"Our study shows there appears to be a threshold at which continued repetitive blows to the brain begin to cause measurable changes in memory and thinking, despite brain volume changes that can be found earlier," said Bernick.


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