I haven’t been a fan of boxing since starting my career in brain injury rehabilitation in spite of growing up in New York City in the 1950’s where boxers were the super star athletes of the day. My Dad coached intra-mural boxing in the Seabees in WWII and both he and his brother fought in Golden Glove bouts in their youth. He taught me to try to not get hit in the head and other strategies that serve me well in my NYC childhood.
We’ve long seen the effects of the sport on athletes like Muhammed Ali who suffers from Parkinson’s, Jerry Quarry who died from dementia, Sugar Ray Robinson from Alzheimer’s and many, many others. The effects were diagnosed as Dementia Pugilistica and we all knew about “punch drunk” fighters who “got their bell rung” in the ring.We now refer to the symptoms as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE and have a very different understanding of the long-term effects of multiple concussions.
The Cleveland Clinic has recently opened the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health which offers boxers an opportunity to get an examination. Hopefully, research will grow from the new center and identify the early signs of multiple concussions and prevent fighters from developing the life changing effects that we see with CTE by getting out of “the fight game” before its too late. The Lou Ruvo Center will also study why some people develop CTE and others don’t which may further help future boxers.
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