Cage News reported this week on a new traumatic brain injury study that is just getting underway involving those in the boxing profession. It has long been known that boxers often experience severe traumatic brain injuries. It is little wonder why, considering the sport itself is entirely about getting hit repeatedly in the head. The long-term harm suffered by these athletes is very real, and all those involved in the sport need to do everything in their power to make the sport as safe as possible.
As part of that overall awareness effort, our brain injury attorneys were encouraged to read about a new research effort involving these athletes. More specifically, the researchers want to figure out why some involved in boxing-and the increasingly popular mixed-martial arts events-face brain injuries and others do not. In the end, these medical professionals want to use the information to come up with better ways to keep these athletes safe. Once they pass their fighting days, many of these athletes face extreme hardship in their later years after suffering permanent neurological damage. The project’s chief investigator noted, “The last thing we want to do it stop these sports. But we want to be able to protect athletes from long-term brain issues.”
This four-year study will involve testing and monitoring a group of boxers. The first round of 150 athletes has already been tested. In total, more than 700 boxers will hopefully be tracked. Each is given a MRI test to get a baseline brain activity level. Brain levels will then be measured at certain intervals. Beyond the MRI, the participating fighters will also undergo a series of cognitive and memory tests. Comparing the resulting data with other information about individual fighters will hopefully yield some clues about the traits that make these injuries more likely and those that do not.
The brain injury researchers also hope to develop a better sense of the physiology of the conditions which cause the most harm. Of course researchers know that getting hit in the head leads to brain damage. That’s obvious. However, there is no real understanding why two individuals who otherwise face the same level and amount of head contact may have different outcomes-with one facing severe problems and the other being relatively fine. Figuring out why some are affected and others are not will go a long way to developing ways to make the sport safer without compromising the essential elements of the sport. There will always be some risk of harm, but that doesn’t mean that inroads can’t be made in safety to keep more fighters healthy.
Our Chicago brain injury attorneys know that much of this work was spurred by high-profile examples of those involved in “fighting” sports-particularly boxing-who suffered traumatic brain injuries with long-term consequences. For example, Joe Louis developed severe dementia that was linked back to his boxing days. Popular fighter Sugar Ray Robinson developed Alzheimer’s disease likely due to his fighting. Several fighters have also recently died at relatively young ages as a result of a brain condition known as “dementia pugilistica.”
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