Amateur Boxers Also Hit by Brain Injury

Spinal fluid study shows signs of post-fight damage

WEDNESDAY, May 2, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Even amateur boxers who take blows to the head can suffer serious brain damage, according to a Swedish study to be presented in Boston this week at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting.

"Despite the high prevalence of brain damage as a result of professional boxing, until now, there has been little information on the possible risks for brain injury in amateur boxing," study author Dr. Max Hietala, of the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Goteborg, said in a prepared statement.

The researchers analyzed the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of 14 amateur boxers to check for elevated levels of biochemical markers for brain injury. The boxers were tested after a fight and then again three months after their last match.

After a fight, the boxers had high CSF levels of neuronal and glial (types of nerve cells) markers suggestive of brain damage. Levels of a particular marker for neuronal damage -- neurofilament light (NFL) -- were four times higher in boxers within 10 days after a fight, compared to a control group of 10 healthy men who weren't athletes.

NFL levels were much higher among boxers who took more than 15 high-impact hits to the head in a fight than those who took fewer head hits.

"Repeated hits to the head are potentially damaging to the central nervous system, and our results suggest CSF analysis could be used for medical counseling of athletes after boxing or head injury," Hietala said.

The researchers also studied soccer players to determine if they suffer any brain damage from repeatedly heading the ball. The soccer players did not have increased levels of CSF biochemical markers for brain damage.

More information

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons has more about sports-related head injuries.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, May 2, 2007
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