A gene linked to Alzheimer’s disease might explain why some boxers suffer permanent brain damage while others can take blows to the head for years without serious effects.
The finding, described by researchers as preliminary, raises questions of whether athletes should be screened before being allowed to box, the researchers said.
Previous studies have shown that head injuries increase the risk of Alzheimer’s, especially in carriers of the implicated gene, called APOE-4.
A study in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that boxers who inherit APOE-4 - especially those who have been punched a lot - are predisposed to developing chronic traumatic brain injury, a disorder characterized by reduced mental capacity.
The findings have “extraordinary ramifications for the regulation of health and safety in boxing and other high-risk,” wrote the authors, led by Dr. Barry D. Jordan, a neurologist who did the research while at Cornell University in New York.