Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate if olympic (amateur) boxing is associated with elevation of brain injury biomarkers in peripheral blood compared to controls.
Materials and methods: Thirty olympic boxers competing in at least 47 bouts were compared to 25 controls. Blood was collected from the controls at one occasion and from the boxers within 1-6 days after a bout and after a rest period of at least 14 days. Tau concentration in plasma was determined using a novel single molecule ELISA assay and S-100B, glial fibrillary acidic protein, brain-derived neurotrophic factor and amyloid β 1-42 were determined using standard immunoassays.
Results: None of the boxers had been knocked-out during the bout. Plasma-tau was significantly increased in the boxers after a bout compared to controls (mean ± SD, 2.46 ± 5.10 vs. 0.79 ± 0.961 ng L(-1), p = 0.038). The other brain injury markers did not differ between the groups. Plasma-tau decreased significantly in the boxers after a resting period compared to after a bout (p = 0.030).
Conclusions: Olympic boxing is associated with elevation of tau in plasma. The repetitive minimal head injury in boxing may lead to axonal injuries that can be diagnosed with a blood test.