MINNEAPOLIS -For boxers and mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters, is there a safe level of exposure to head trauma? A new study shows different effects in the brain for younger, current fighters compared to older, retired fighters. The study is published in the December 23, 2019, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

As a group, both the current and the former fighters had loss of brain volume. In the current fighters, the volume loss was in areas of the brain that suggest it is a result of the injury, when nerve fibers are torn as the brain shifts inside the skull. In the retired fighters, the volume loss was in areas of the brain that suggest it is due to the progressive disease process seen in neurodegenerative diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) or Alzheimer’s disease.

CTE is a rare brain disease found in athletes and others with a history of repeated head traumas. Symptoms include memory loss and thinking problems as well as emotional and behavior changes such as aggression.

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