There have been plenty of studies linking high-impact sports (football,
hockey, and boxing) to traumatic brain injuries, but preliminary results
from a new study suggest that women participating in these head-butting
sports may not be suffering the same cognitive symptoms as their male
The concerns stems from a long-term study conducted at the Cleveland Clinic's Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, which involved boxers and mixed martial arts fighters and measuring the effects of the sport on their brains and behavior.
After just six years of fighting, physical changes can be seen in the fighters' brains; after 12 years, the fighters were already starting to show cognitive symptoms the come with repeated blows to the head - depression, mood shifts, memory loss, and slurred speech:
The more fights they had, the worse their self control the worse they performed on tests with memory. So it suggests there may be damage or structural changes occurring years before somebody becomes symptomatic.
Interestingly, when researchers observed the same structural brain changes in female fighters at the six-year and 12 year mark, it revealed that the women weren't demonstrating the sorts of severe cognitive symptoms that the male fighters were showing. But since only ten women participated in the study, there's not enough evidence to go on.
The researchers also theorized that perhaps women weren't suffering the same sorts of symptoms because they weren't being hit on the head quite so hard as men. But we doubt you'd want to get knocked out just to prove a point.