Science Daily reports that researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy and the Ericyes University Medical School in Turkey published a study revealing elevated levels of the protein NSE in blood samples taken from amateur boxers after a two-month break from boxing. The NSE levels were higher in the blood samples of 44 boxers than in a healthy control group of the same size. The team of scientists concluded from these results that receiving multiple blows to the head and face can lead to nerve-cell deterioration, which persists for months, even after the blows have ceased.
The study, published in the current issue of the journal Brain Injury, demonstrates that when boxers are punched in the head repeatedly, harmful processes are set in motion, which continue long after the initial injuries took place. Earlier research by the same team of scientists showed heightened levels of brain injury markers in the spinal fluid of boxers, further demonstrating the potential for serious injury that fighters may not be fully aware of.
Doctors and scientists have expressed concern that boxers and children who aspire to boxing and martial arts may not be fully informed about the serious risk of long-term chronic brain injury from taking multiple traumatic punches and kicks to the head.
The team of researchers hopes their most recent study will help boxers, trainers, and parents make more informed and better decisions about when athletes should avoid further training and competition in order to avert serious traumatic brain injuries.
The Turkish scientists expressed plans to expand their study to encompass more boxers at different times of their training and boxing careers. The scientists will continue to monitor variations in the NSE levels of boxers before and after matches, after knockouts, and over much longer periods of time to determine more specifically the serious potential for brain damage in boxing and other sports in which athletes take repeated blows to the head.
While the debate continues over whether or not amateur boxers are at serious risk for traumatic and chronic brain injury, scientists have finally demonstrated proof that taking blow after blow to the head really does lead to damage in the fragile gray matter inside the skull.
Many boxers will likely choose to continue with their sport, and children will still aspire to become boxers. At least with this and other studies on the detrimental effects of boxing on the human brain, parents and trainers will be able to make better-informed decisions before sending their athletes and youth into the ring.