A Study On The Effects Of Mixed Martial Arts And Boxing To An Athlete's Brain

First Posted: May 29, 2016 04:00 AM EDT

Even those who did not study neuroscience or sports medicine know that taking a repeated hit in the head is not going to do any good to your brain. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens to boxers and mixed martial arts fighters.

Michael Finney started boxing at the age of 9, and now, 15 years later, he's a professional boxer with more than 150 fights under his belt. He fears that those years in the ring may have a detrimental effect on his brain.

"A little bit of memory, stuff like that, you notice," he told CBS News. "And I was just like, 'man!' It kind of scares you." Finney is one of almost 650 active and retired boxers and MMA fighters participating in a study run by the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas which monitors the long-term impact of repetitive head trauma on the athletes. Researchers have completed many studies on concussions in football players, but experts say a lot more knowledge can be gained from athletes in combat sports.

Dr. Charles Bernick, an associate director of the Cleveland Clinic's Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, and the lead researcher in the study. "They see changes and their family sees changes... and they want information," he said. He also said that there are some individuals who have an astounding amount of exposure to head trauma and they do just fine. "So we're trying to understand why that is," he continued.

According to Medical Daily, Bernick said that they're hoping that the study's findings will be used to help make combat sports safer. "For example, you may be able to develop a policy of how frequently somebody should fight," to minimize the chances of lasting damage, Bernick said.

A number of organizations, including the Nevada Sports Commission and the mixed martial arts promoter UFC, are encouraging fighters to take part. Bernick says he hopes to have more than 700 athletes involved in the study by the end of the year.

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