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Long-term effects of boxing and judo-choking techniques on brain function

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Regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) was measured by 133-xenon inhalation in 24 amateur and 20 professional boxers, and in 10 judoka. Results were compared with those from age- and sex-matched healthy controls. Eighteen boxers (9 amateurs and 9 professionals) and all judoka also underwent electroencephalography (EEG). Mean rCBF values did not differ between either amateur boxers or judoka and controls, whereas in professional boxers rCBF was significantly (p<.001) reduced in the whole brain, especially in the frontocentral regions. Healthy subjects, judoka, and amateur boxers showed a similar distribution of global CBF (gCBF, the mean of 32 probes) values, although 12.5% of amateurs had a significantly lower gCBF than controls. Among professional boxers, 25% showed a significantly low gCBF value; in the remaining 75%, gCBF was below the mean value of controls but did not reach statistical significance. Regional hypoperfusion, mainly in the frontocentral regions of both sides, was found in 35% of professional and in 29% of amateur boxers. A correlation between gCBF values and number of official matches was not found in boxers. EEG was normal in all judoka and amateur boxers, but it was abnormal in 3 professionals. This study shows the relevance of the neurophysiological assessment of athletes engaged in violent sports which can cause brain impairment. In fact, while professional boxers may show brain functional impairment in comparison to normal subjects, judoka do not. The lack of correlation between CBF values in boxers and the number of official matches points to the difficulty of taking into account variables, such as the number and the severity of matches during training.


Il fusso ematico regionale cerebrale (rCBF; metodo inalatorio con xenon-133) è stato valutato in due gruppi di pugilatori (24 dilettanti e 20 professionisti) ed in un gruppo di 10 judoka. I risultaoi sono stati confrontati con quelli ottenuti in un gruppo di volontari sani di pari età e sesso. Diciotto pugilatori (9 professionisti e 9 dilettanti) e tutti i judoka eseguirono anche un elettroencefalogramma (EEG). I valori medi di rCBF non differivano da quelli dei soggetti normali sia nei pugilatori dilettanti the nei judoka, mentre i valori dei pugili professionisti erano significativamente ridotti (p<.001) in tutto il cervello ma soprattutto nelle regioni frontocentrali bilateralmente. La distribuzione dei valori globali di CBF (media delle 32 sonde) era simile nei controlli normali, nei judoka e nei pugilatori dilettanti, sebbene tra quest'ultimi il 12,5% presentava valori significativamente più bassi dei normali. I pugili professionisti presentavano nel 25% dei casi valori globali di CBF significativamente più bassi; negli altri casi il CBF globaae era più basso della media dei controlli, anche se in maniera non significativa. I valori globali di fusso non erano correlati nei due gruppi di pugilatori al numero dei combattimenti ufficiali. Ipoperfusioni regionali, localizzate soprattutto nelle regioni frontocentrali di entrambi gli emisferi, furono trovate nel 35% dei pugili professionistei e nel 29% dei dilettanti ma mai nei judoka. L'EEG è risultato normale nei judoka e nei pugili dilettanti, ma alterato in 3 pugili professionisti. Lo studio ha mostrato l'importanza dell'esplorazione neurofisiologica in atleti ingaggiati in sports in cui la violenza può essere causa di lesioni cerebrali anche importanti. Da questo punto di vista i pugilatori, specialmente i professionisti, risultano compromessi rispetto ai soggetti normali, a differenza dei judoka. Nei pugilatori, la mancata correlázione tra valori perfusionali e numero di incontri indica piuttosto la difficolta di tenere conto di variabili difficilmente quantificabili, quali la quantità e l'asprezza degli incontri fatti durante gli allenamenti.

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Rodriguez, G., Vitali, P., Nobili, F. et al. Long-term effects of boxing and judo-choking techniques on brain function. Ital J Neuro Sci 19, 367–372 (1998).

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