Monday, January 17, 2011

What Every Martial Artist Should Know About CTE

Most of you know by now that I spend a lot time on forums. Well, I was over at the's strength and conditioning forums and one member was asking questions about Brain Injury and Combat Sports.

The following is the member's question and my response. I hope you guys find it helpful:

Jon's Question: "Do you think it's possible to go through years of full contact boxing, MMA etc without accruing any sort of cognitive problems? Or are such effects inevitable?"

My Response:

I wrote an article on preventing brain injury not too long ago:

3 Tips for Preventing Brain Injury

In it I talk about some ways to prevent brain injury (like taking creatine).

There are other things you can do to prevent Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE):

Based on the research I've looked into you need TIME between fights. Especially, the ones where you receive a concussion - even a small one. It seems as though 3-4 weeks away from sparring and contact drills if you've had a concussion is the minimum.

But remember, even sub-concussive trauma (trauma that doesn't result in a concussion) can have a cumulative effect and still cause long term damage that may not show up for years. Again, time an important factor when preventing brain damage.

Because sub-concussive trauma results in more neurochemical and neurometabolic changes than actual physical damage the recovery time may be shorter (at least 5 days).

However, I want to point out that while one may, generally, recover from sub-concussive trauma faster during this time the risk of more severe damage is greater should another trauma occur. Give yourself time to recover.

I've also seen it noted that specific types of impact play a role in the severity of the trauma. For example, a rotational force impact (like being struck in the head by a hook) can cause result in "severe structural injur[y]" due to certain shearing forces - this type of impact is considered the most serious.

The shitty thing is: there isn't enough research to give you a real answer!

I mean we don't know if there are genetic predispositions for CTE (but I assume there are) or if other environmental factors (like excessive alcohol or drug abuse) increase the risk of developing symptoms of CTE (again, it may be safe to assume they do). We don't even know if children and teens are more at risk or if adults are more at risk.

So, really, more research needs to be done.

If you guys are interested in doing some of your own research here are a few links to get your started:
Let me hear what you guys have to say in the comments section.

Train Hard,
Josh Skinner (donjitsu2)


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