The neuropsychiatric aspects of boxing

Int J Psychiatry Med. 1995;25(3):249-62. doi: 10.2190/CUMK-THT1-X98M-WB4C.


Objective: To review the neuropsychiatry of boxing.

Method: This update considers the clinical, neuropsychological, diagnostic, neurobiological, and management aspects of boxing-related brain injury.

Results: Professional boxers with multiple bouts and repeated head blows are prone to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Repeated head blows produce rotational acceleration of the brain, diffuse axonal injury, and other neuropathological features. CTE includes motor changes such as tremor, dysarthria, and parkinsonism; cognitive changes such as mental slowing and memory deficits; and psychiatric changes such as explosive behavior, morbid jealousy, pathological intoxication, and paranoia. Screening with neuropsychological tests and neuroimaging may help predict those boxers at risk for CTE.

Conclusions: Boxing results in a spectrum of CTE ranging from mild, nonprogressive motor changes to dementia pugilistica. Recent emphasis on safety in the ring, rehabilitation techniques, and other interventions do not eliminate the risk for CTE. For this reason, there is an active movement to ban boxing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Athletic Injuries / psychology
  • Athletic Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Boxing / injuries*
  • Boxing / psychology
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / diagnosis*
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / psychology
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / rehabilitation
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Head Injuries, Closed / diagnosis*
  • Head Injuries, Closed / psychology
  • Head Injuries, Closed / rehabilitation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / psychology
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Neuropsychological Tests*