Traumatic brain injury: a review and high-field MRI findings in 100 unarmed combatants using a literature-based checklist approach

J Neurotrauma. 2009 May;26(5):689-701. doi: 10.1089/neu.2008.0636.


This study reviewed the literature for the extent of neuroimaging findings in boxers, indicative of traumatic brain injury (TBI) as identified in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The study then utilized a systematic checklist approach to assess 100 unselected consecutive 1.5- and 3.0-Tesla MRI examinations of professional unarmed combatants to determine the extent of identifiable TBI findings. The percentage of positive findings and the localization of lesions were quantified using the checklist that included the MRI findings previously reported in the medical literature. Seventy-six percent of the unarmed combatants had at least one finding that may be associated with TBI: 59% hippocampal atrophy, 43% cavum septum pellucidum, 32% dilated perivascular spaces, 29% diffuse axonal injury, 24% cerebral atrophy, 19% increased lateral ventricular size, 14% pituitary gland atrophy, 5% arachnoid cysts, and 2% had contusions. Statistical relationships were found between number of bouts and lateral ventricular size (tau-b = 0.149, p = 0.0489), with years of fighting correlating with the presence of dilated perivascular spaces (tau-b = 0.167, p = 0.0388) and diffuse axonal injury (tau-b = 0.287, p = 0.0013) findings. The improved resolution and increased signal-to-noise ratio on 1.5- and 3.0-Tesla high-field MRI systems defines the range of pathological variations that may occur in professional unarmed combatants. Additionally, the use of a systematic checklist approach insures evaluation for all possible TBI-related abnormalities. This knowledge can be used to anticipate the regions of potential brain pathology for radiologists and emergency medicine physicians, and provides important information for evaluating unarmed combatants relative to their safety and long-term neurocognitive outcome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arachnoid Cysts / pathology
  • Atrophy
  • Axons / pathology
  • Blood Vessels / pathology
  • Boxing / physiology*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Injuries / pathology*
  • Cerebral Angiography
  • Chronic Disease
  • Hemosiderin / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Humans
  • Lateral Ventricles / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Pituitary Gland / pathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Septum Pellucidum / pathology
  • Young Adult


  • Hemosiderin