Checkmate or Knockout? Brain or Brawn?

Bailey D., Jones D., Sinnot A., et al. (2012). Impaired cerebral haemodynamic function associated with chronic traumatic brain injury in professional boxers. Clinical Science, 124:177-189 Details

Customer study highlights

Boxing has a long history in the annals of sports. Early Mesopotamian carvings suggest that boxing dates as far back as 3000 BC. It has been described as captivating the psychological appeal of sport more than any other due to its acutely clear manifestation of defensive and offensive tactics, and the decisive nature of knockout victory.

Unfortunately for boxers, repeated head trauma can have neurological consequences resulting in impaired cognitive, behavioural and motor ability – named ‘Dementia pugilistica’ (DP). According to a combined international study between universities in Wales, France, Canada and Japan, DP may develop due to impaired cerebral blood flow regulation.

In their study, Bailey et al (2012) tested dynamic cerebral blood flow regulation and oxygenation in 12 professional boxers exposed to acute hypotension, altered blood CO2 levels, and an aerobic power test. According to their data – obtained using LabChart 7 and PowerLab16SP – boxers showed comparable cerebrovascular regulation to non-boxing age- and fitness-matched control subjects under baseline conditions. However, in response to acute hypotension, boxers showed a marked and prolonged drop in middle cerebral artery blood velocity (MCAv) as measured using transcranial Doppler ultrasound. In response to hyper/hypocapnic challenge, boxers also showed blunted cerebrovascular reactivity (derived from MCAv and end tidal CO2 measurements made using the ML 206 gas analyzer). Heart rate (ECG measured with Dual BioAmp), systemic blood pressure (Finapres) and cardiac baroreflex sensitivity were not significantly different between boxers and non-boxers for any condition, indicating that the changes observed were specific to cerebral blood flow regulation. Boxers also underperformed in a battery of neuropsychometric tests.

Coincidentally, chess also embodies offensive and defensive tactics that lead to decisive victory conditions, minus of course the inconvenience of developing progressive dementia. The punchline: swap knockouts for checkmates. You’ll miss out on the brawn, but you may just save your brain!

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