Leading Article

Sports Medicine

, Volume 37, Issue 6, pp 467-476

First online:

The Evidence for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in Boxing

  • Paul McCroryAffiliated withCentre for Health, Exercise and Sports Medicine and the Brain Research Institute, University of Melbourne
  • , Tsharni ZazrynAffiliated withDepartment of Health Science, School of Primary Health Care, Monash University Email author 
  • , Peter CameronAffiliated withDepartment of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Alfred Hospital

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The sport of boxing has been the source of much debate, with concerns about the neurological risks of participating having led to many calls to ban the sport. This review seeks to establish an evidence base for the development of boxing-related chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and to determine the relevance of this information to the modern day sport.

The clinical features of CTE include various symptoms affecting the pyramidal and extrapyramidal systems, which manifest most often as disturbed gait and coordination, slurred speech and tremors, as well as cerebral dysfunction causing cognitive impairments and neurobehavioural disturbances. Both amateur and professional boxers are potentially at risk of developing CTE. No current epidemiological evidence exists to determine the prevalence of this condition in modern day boxing, despite 17% of professional boxers in Britain with careers in the 1930–50s having clinical evidence of CTE.

As medical presence within the sport increases and with modern boxers likely to have shorter careers, a reduced exposure to repetitive head trauma, and improved treatment and understanding of the development of CTE will occur. This should lead to the incidence of CTE diminishing in boxing populations.