New study may hold promise for traumatic brain injured

Tracy Woolrich's picture
Traumatic brain injured
Advertisement

What do the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Senator John McCain, Senator Harry Reid and the Cleveland Clinic have in common? You might be surprised.

John McCain along with Harry Reid has introduced new funding and support to the Cleveland Clinic for a project called Professional Fighters Brain Health Study. This project is supported by the UFC, Top Rank Boxing, Golden Boy Promotions and Viacom. The ultimate goal is to examine the stress put on the brain during combat. Very strange bed fellows. Just getting boxing and mixed martial arts representatives together in the same room must be a challenge in itself. However, everyone agrees that there is a need for brain trauma research. This is very timely indeed, as another boxer died just days ago during a fight.

Mexican featherweight boxer Oscar "Fantasma" Gonzalez died after being knocked out in the 10th round of a match over the weekend. The promoters indicated that he died after suffering a severe brain injury with brain stem damage two days earlier. The 23-year-old lost consciousness after being knocked out in a bout in Mexico City and was taken to a hospital. Interesting enough, this is the second boxing death in Mexico within the past three months. Francisco "Frankie" Leal died in November 2013 a few days after being knocked out in a fight in Los Cabos.

Professional boxing and MMA have vowed to commit $600,000 to the Cleveland Clinic's Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. It is also being funded with a grant of more than $400,000 from The Lincy Foundation. The principal benefactor of that foundation used to be a boxer.

"It's a rare occasion when Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank Boxing are in the same room together," Senator John McCain said. "These athletes are here in support of their fellow athletes because they've seen the results. If we don't do this, I'm afraid that support for these incredible, entertaining sports will wane on the part of the American people."
49 year old former middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins is one of the 400 fighters who are already enrolled in the study.

"You want to know the risks," Hopkins said. "God forbid if I was diagnosed with something 10-15 years ago, then I got a choice to make. Do I want to enjoy the rest of my life with my kids or do I want to continue to fight for myself and to walk around the rest of my life as a vegetable?"

Advertisement

Risks
This much is already known. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons indicate that 90% of boxers sustain a brain injury. It is not just the obvious and traumatic brain injuries that
Gonzalez and Leal sustained in Mexico that is a concern. It is the long term effects that linger long after the fight that is a problem. According to the Cleveland Clinic up to 50% of Professional fighters appear to have a higher risk of developing:

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Parkinson's disease
  • CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy)

The Cleveland Clinic is working to identify risk factors and ways to determine if a fighter has sustained a level of cumulative brain damage.

“It has been known for decades in the boxing community that recurrent blows to the head can result in permanent brain damage. Many notable fighters have developed striking neurological conditions at relatively young ages,” says Charles Bernick, MD, Associate Medical Director at the Cleveland Clinic and primary researcher for the study. “Our goal is to help the next generation of fighters by improving fighting safety. New technologies, such as advanced MRI scanning, may offer us the ability to determine who is at greatest risk to develop permanent brain injury and detect it at its earliest stages.”

The hope is that the information discovered during this research will result in better ways to prevent permanent brain injury. This can be useful not only with fighters but also with others who suffer from brain trauma. It could be useful in developing better protective equipment for all type of sports including football.

Participants will receive free, ongoing assessment of their brain function. MRI tests will be repeated once a year for four years so that any changes can be monitored. Any changes seen on the MRI will be correlated with cognitive assessments.

More information on the study is available at the Nevada Athletic Commission office,by calling 877.247.7800, by emailing [email protected] and by visiting the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health website.

Sources:
UFC

Cleveland Clinic

Advertisement