CLEVELAND – A study from Cleveland Clinic shows boxers and mixed martial arts fighters may see some recovery in their thinking and memory skills, as well as brain structure after they stop fighting.
“What we found was that the folks who continued to fight, we saw slight declines in certain parts of the brain that may be susceptible to repetitive head trauma. While those who stopped fighting, we saw a stabilization of brain volume lost,” said Aaron Ritter, MD, neurology specialist and lead author on the study.
He said two groups participated in the research: the first was made up of 45 male retired fighters who had not competed in two years and the other group consisted of 45 active male fighters.
Over the span of three years, all fighters had brain scans and completed tests to see how their brains were functioning at the beginning and end of the study.
In the areas of verbal memory, motor speed and processing speed, the retired fighters had improvements over time, while the active fighters were stable or showed subtle declines.
Dr. Ritter said knowing this information can be useful for fighters when it comes to their health and careers.
“Our goal is to keep professional athletes safe and inform them about their risk for cognitive decline later in life, and so understanding that transition period is really important to inform athletes to make safe decisions about their career,” he said.
Dr. Ritter said research is ongoing. For example, they’d still like to determine if there is a time in a fighter’s career where recovery is less likely to happen.