New Brain Health study outlines that in MMA age, knockout losses and number of bouts are relevant factors for developing CTE

According to new research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, there are two important criteria might cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy in athletes (CTE). Age and the number of recurrent head injuries are those two variables.

The research titled “Traumatic Encephalopathy Syndrome: Application of New Criteria to a Cohort Exposed to Repetitive Head Impact” studied certain characteristics that individuals who satisfied the requirements for the condition had had. The TES criteria were developed by the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke (NINDS).

The TES criteria were developed by a group of “20 expert clinician-scientists in neurology, neuropsychology, psychiatry, neurosurgery, and physical medicine and rehabilitation, from 11 academic institutions”. The group took into factors 40 studies that consisted of 229 cases in total.

The clinical CTE is intended to be represented by the TES criteria. Studies of former professional football players provided a large portion of the data utilized to design the procedure. The Professional Fighters Brain Health Study (PBHS) data were used for the survey of combat sports athletes and compared with the information obtained from the study of football players.

Additionally, the research discovered that those who tested positive for TES had smaller regional brain sizes. They had worse ratings for basic and choice response times and slower psychomotor speeds.

The combat sports athlete study featured a number of boxes that had to be ticked in order for someone to be classified as a fighter with TES. Athletes who tested positive for TES required significant exposure to recurrent head traumas (RHI), cognitive impairment and/or poorly controlled emotional reactions, and development of symptoms.

10 or more professional bouts were required to qualify for RHI. In order to study cognitive impairment, the fighters were evaluated through a test. The test that the combatants underwent took approximately one hour to complete.

Comparing the tests the combatants had taken throughout the PBHS allowed researchers to track the progression of the symptoms. The last step was to identify external influences by having combatants self-report their medical histories, clinical observations, and brain MRI results.

According to the report, 41% of the boxers tested positive for TES. For combatants over 50 years of age, that percentage increased to 60%. Among those who tested positive for TES, 83% were boxers and 17% were MMA athletes. Additionally, the research discovered that TES testing was more likely to be positive in boxers with over 25 bouts.

The research said that “it is important to emphasize that it is currently unknown what percentage of individuals who fulfill the criteria for TES actually harbor CTE pathology.”
However, the study’s researchers are optimistic that their methodology will further help study RHI’s long-term impacts.

The only way to identify chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is via a post-mortem examination.