Distribution of microstructural damage in the brains of professional boxers: a diffusion MRI study

J Magn Reson Imaging. 2006 Sep;24(3):537-42. doi: 10.1002/jmri.20656.


Purpose: To investigate and localize cerebral abnormalities in professional boxers with no history of moderate or severe head trauma.

Materials and methods: Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was used to determine the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) and fractional anisotropy (FA) in the brains of 81 professional male boxers and 12 male control subjects. Voxel-based analysis (VBA) of both the diffusion and anisotropy values was performed using statistical parametric mapping (SPM). From this objective analysis, regions of microstructural abnormalities in the brains of the boxers were located.

Results: Increases in the ADC, and decreases in FA were identified in deep white matter (WM), while decreases in ADC were identified in cortical gray matter (GM). Regions of positive correlation between ADC and age were also found in both the boxer and control groups, although the regions and strength of the correlation were not the same in each group.

Conclusion: Using VBA, we localized previously unreported abnormalities in the brains of professional boxers. These abnormalities are assumed to reflect cumulative (chronic) brain injury resulting from nonsevere head trauma.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anisotropy
  • Boxing*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Injuries / pathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Diffusion
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Statistical