Boxing boom may help concussion safety battle

Fri May 1, 2015 1:21pm EDT
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By Larry Fine

(Reuters) - Boxing is surging as evidenced by the wildly lucrative Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao megafight and return of bouts to network TV, and the revitalization may lead to better protection for fighters in the ring.

Dr. Charles Bernick of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas recently announced an agreement to add fighters from the Premier Boxing Champions Series to his research study.

The Professional Fighters' Study is examining more than 500 fighters to learn more about damage done in their violent profession and the risk factors for individuals.

"The study is aimed at trying to understand the long term effects of repetitive head trauma," Bernick told Reuters in an interview. "And what are the risk factors? Not everybody who takes repetitive hits to the head develops problems.

"How do we diagnose it, how do we recognize it early, can we predict who is going to go on to have long-term consequences and ultimately what can we do to make all these sports and activities safer?"

Later in life, boxers have shown a propensity to develop brain disease and symptoms of other neurological conditions.

Muhammad Ali, the face of boxing for half a century, suffers from Parkinson's disease, which some in the medical world say is connected to his years in the ring. Joe Louis exhibited dementia late in life and Sugar Ray Robinson developed Alzheimer's.

From January 1960 to August 2011 there were 488 boxing-related deaths, with 66 percent attributed to head, brain or neck injuries, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons said, citing the Journal for Combative Sport.   Continued...

Marcos Maidana (L) of Argentina is punched by Floyd Mayweather Jr. of the U.S. during their WBC/WBA welterweight unification fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, May 3, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Marcus