A preliminary investigation of corpus callosum subregion white matter vulnerability and relation to chronic outcome in boxers

Brain Imaging Behav. 2020 Jun;14(3):772-786. doi: 10.1007/s11682-018-0018-7.


Microstructural neuropathology occurs in the corpus callosum (CC) after repetitive sports concussion in boxers and can be dose-dependent. However, the specificity and relation of CC changes to boxing exposure extent and post-career psychiatric and neuropsychological outcomes are largely unknown. Using deterministic diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) techniques, boxers and demographically-matched, noncontact sport athletes were compared to address literature gaps. Ten boxers and 9 comparison athletes between 26 and 59 years old (M = 44.63, SD = 9.24) completed neuropsychological testing and MRI. Quantitative DTI metrics were estimated for CC subregions. Group×Region interaction effects were observed on fractional anisotropy (FA; η2p ≥ .21). Follow-up indicated large effects of group (η2p ≥ .26) on splenium FA (boxers<comparisons) and genu mean diffusivity (MD; boxers>comparisons), but not radial diffusivity (RD). The group of boxers had moderately elevated number of psychiatric symptoms and reduced neuropsychological scores relative to the comparison group. In boxers, years sparring, professional bouts, and knockout history correlated strongly (r > |.40|) with DTI metrics and fine motor dexterity. In the comparison group, splenium FA correlated positively with psychiatric symptoms. In the boxer group, neuropsychological scores correlated with DTI metrics in all CC subregions. Results suggested relative vulnerability of the splenium and, to a lesser extent, the genu to chronic, repetitive head injury from boxing. Dose-dependent associations of professional boxing history extent with DTI white matter structure indices as well as fine motor dexterity were supported. Results indicated that symptoms of depression and executive dysfunction may provide the strongest indicators of global CC disruption from boxing.

Keywords: Boxing; Corpus callosum; DTI; Depression; Executive function; Repetitive sports concussion.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anisotropy
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Corpus Callosum / diagnostic imaging
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • White Matter* / diagnostic imaging