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Impulsiveness in Professional Fighters
Sarah J. Banks, Ph.D.; Brittany Mayer, B.A.; Nancy Obuchowski, Ph.D.; Wanyong Shin, Ph.D.; Mark Lowe, Ph.D.; Michael Phillips, M.D.; Michael Modic, M.D.; Charles Bernick, Ph.D.
The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 2014;26:44-50. doi:10.1176/appi.neuropsych.12070185
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From the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and the Cleveland Clinic Department of Radiology.

Send correspondence to Dr. Banks; e-mail: bankss2@ccf.org

Copyright © 2014 by the American Psychiatric Association

Received July 27, 2012; Revised December 20, 2012; Accepted January 18, 2013.


Sports involving repeated head trauma are associated with risk of neurodegenerative disorders such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Among the behavioral manifestations of CTE is increased impulsiveness. Here, the authors investigate the relationship between impulsiveness and exposure to head trauma in a large group of active professional fighters. Fighters tended to report less impulsiveness than did non-fighting control respondents. Overall, greater fight exposure was associated with higher levels of a specific form of impulsiveness, although there were differences between mixed martial arts fighters and boxers. Fight exposure was associated with reduction in volume of certain brain structures, and these changes were also associated with impulsiveness patterns. Longitudinal studies of professional fighters are important to understand the risk for neuropsychiatric problems.

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impulsivity ; brain
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FIGURE 1. Distribution of BIS II Total and Subscores in Boxers and MMA Fighters

Scores are displayed as Z scores based on healthy subjects’ scores reported in Stanford et al., 2009.

BIS II: MMA: mixed martial arts.

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TABLE 1.Fight Exposure Summary Statistics for the Study Participants, mean (range)
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TABLE 2.BIS II Summary Statistics for the Study Participants
Table Footer Note

Mean scores adjusted for age, race, and education.

Table Footer Note

BIS II: Barratt Impulsiveness Scale, II.



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