Clin J Sport Med. 2023 Oct 19. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000001195. Online ahead of print.
OBJECTIVES: Although physical trauma has been reported in boxing since its inception, boxing still appeals to athletes and spectators. This systematic review and meta-analysis assess both acute and chronic neurological and neuropsychological effects that boxing has on the brain. Further assessments in terms of comparisons of the concussion ratio in boxing to other combat sports, as well as the efficiency of wearing headguards, are also performed.
DATA SOURCES: This systematic review and meta-analysis used the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. The outcomes incorporated included physical chronic abnormalities of the brain, neuropsychiatric, and neurological disorders sustained in amateur or professional boxing, in addition to the safety benefits of boxing headguards. Odds ratios, descriptive statistics, and inferential statistics are also reported.
MAIN RESULTS: From the 84 articles reviewed, the 35 included articles suggested that boxers have a significantly elevated risk of sustaining a concussion compared with other combat sports (risk ratio [RR]: 0.253 vs RR: 0.065, P < 0.001). From the 631 amateur and professional boxers analyzed, 147 (23.30%) had cavum septum pellucidum, whereas 125 of 411 amateur and professional boxers (30.41%) presented with some form of brain atrophy. Dementia or amnesia was observed in 46 of 71 boxers (61.79%), 36 of 70 (51.43%) had various forms and severities of cognitive disorders, and 57 of 109 (52.29%) displayed abnormal computed tomography or electroencephalogram scan results. Utilization of headguards significantly increased the risk for stoppages in amateur bouts, compared with boxers not wearing a headguard (OR: 1.75 vs 0.53, P < 0.050).
CONCLUSIONS: Boxing is a hazardous sport that has the potential to have fatal and negative life-changing results. Because of the limited reliable data regarding the efficiency of boxing headguards, future research should focus on the overall significance that headguards may have for reducing head trauma.