Sparring and neurological function in professional boxers

John W. Stiller, Steven S. Yu, Lisa A. Brenner, Patricia Langenberg, Phillip Scrofani, Patrick Pannella, Edbert B. Hsu, Darryl W. Roberts, Ray M.T. Monsell, Sidney W. Binks, Alvaro Guzman, Teodor T. Postolache

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Despite increased interest regarding the potentially long-term negative impact of chronic traumatic brain injury, limited research has been conducted regarding such injuries and neurological outcomes in real world settings.To increase understanding regarding the rela- tionship between sparring (e.g., training under the tutelage of an experienced boxing coach for the purpose of improving skills and/or fitness) and neurological functioning, professional boxers (n=237) who competed in Maryland between 2003 and 2008 completed mea- sures regarding sparring exposure (Cumulative Sparring Index, CSI) and performance on tests of cognition (Symbol Digit ModalitiesTest, SDMT) and balance (Sharpened Romberg Test, SRT). Measures were completed prior to boxing matches. Higher scores on the CSI (increased sparring exposure) were associated with poorer performance on both tests of cognition (SDMT) and balance (SRT). A threshold effect was noted regarding performance on the SDMT,with those reporting CSI values greater than about 150 experiencing a decline in cognition. A history of frequent and/or intense sparring may pose a significant risk for developing boxing associated neurological sequelae. Implementing administration of clin- ically meaningful tests before bouts, such as the CSI, SDMT, and/or the SRT, as well as documentation of results into the boxer's physicals ormedical profilles may be an important step for improving boxing safety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number69
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Issue numberJUL
StatePublished - Jul 21 2014


  • Balance
  • Boxing
  • Chronic traumatic brain injury
  • Cognitive
  • Cumulative sparring index

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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