August 23, 2009

Blood test detects boxer brain damage

Swedish and Turkish researchers, in a study of amateur boxers, found nerve cell deterioration may occur even after a two-month break from boxing.

Researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy and the Erciyes University Medical School in Turkey said the findings constitute further evidence that repeated blows to the head may damage the brain. A blood test can now be used to detect brain damage in amateur boxers, the researchers said.

The study involved 44 Turkish amateur boxers, whose blood samples were collected in the beginning of a training camp after a two-month break from boxing. The results were compared to those found in a healthy control group.

Henrik Zetterberg of the Sahlgrenska Academy said the research team analyzed several proteins that can be used to identify brain damage, and found that the levels of one protein, called NSE, were higher among the boxers than in the control group.

The blows seem to lead to a deterioration of nerve cells that lasts for a relatively long time, Zetterberg said in a statement. It is important that this is made known to participants in sports that involve kicks and blows to the head and to parents who let their children participate.

The findings are published in the journal Brain Injury.