Amateur Boxers Experience Acute Neuronal Damage

Chemical markers of neuronal injury can be found in cerebrospinal fluid after matches

MONDAY, Sept. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Amateur boxing causes acute neuronal and astroglial trauma that can be detected in cerebrospinal fluid seven to 10 days after a match, according to a study in the September issue of the Archives of Neurology.

Henrik Zetterberg, M.D., Ph.D., of Goteborg University in Sweden, and colleagues evaluated the consequences of hit severity by measuring elevated chemical markers of injury in the cerebrospinal fluid of 14 amateur boxers (11 men, three women) and 10 male non-athletic controls. Lumbar punctures were performed seven to 10 days and three months after a bout. Each control had only one lumbar puncture.

Concentrations of neurofilament light protein (NFL) and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) were analyzed. Boxers were found to have a significant increase in both biomarkers soon after a bout compared to their levels three months later. Except for NFL, concentrations of chemical markers were not different between boxers and controls after the boxers' three-month rest period. High-impact hits to the head and more overall hits were correlated with higher levels of NFL and GFAP compared to boxers who took less hits.

"Our study results suggest that amateur boxing impairs axonal and astroglial integrity. The molecular changes detected are likely to be even more pronounced in professional boxers and in boxers who have received a knockout punch," the authors write.

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