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2018 JCR, Web of Science Group 2019

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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Hum. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2019.00294

Understanding the consequences of Repetitive Subconcussive Head Impacts in Sport: Brain changes and dampened motor control are seen after boxing practice.

 Thomas G. Di Virgilio1*,  Magdalena Ietswaart2, Lindsay Wilson2, David I. Donaldson2 and  Angus M. Hunter1
  • 1Physiology, Exercise and Nutrition Research, Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, University of Stirling, United Kingdom
  • 2Department of Psychology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Stirling, United Kingdom

Objectives: The potential effects of exposure to repetitive subconcussive head impacts through routine participation in sport are not understood. To investigate the effects of repetitive subconcussive head impacts we studied boxers following customary training (sparring) using TMS, decomposition EMG and tests of memory. Methods: Twenty amateur boxers performed three 3-minute sparring bouts. Parameters of brain function and motor control were assessed prior to sparring and again immediately, 1h and 24h post-sparring. Twenty control participants were assessed following mock-sparring. Results: One hour after sparring boxers showed increased corticomotor inhibition, altered motor unit recruitment strategies, and decreased memory performance relative to controls, with values returning to baseline by the 24h follow up. Conclusion: Repetitive subconcussive head impacts associated with sparring resulted in acute and transient brain changes similar to those previously reported in soccer heading, providing convergent evidence that sport-related head impacts produce a GABAergic response. These acute changes in brain health are reminiscent of effects seen following brain injury, and suggest a potential mechanism underlying the damaging long-term effects of routine repetitive head impacts in sport.

Keywords: Subconcussive head impacts, TBI, transcranial magenetic stimulation, motor unit behavior, Boxing

Received: 13 May 2019; Accepted: 12 Aug 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Di Virgilio, Ietswaart, Wilson, Donaldson and Hunter. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Thomas G. Di Virgilio, Physiology, Exercise and Nutrition Research, Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA, Scotland, United Kingdom, td13@stir.ac.uk