Attention in professional and amateur boxers



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The contact sport of boxing is considered by some to be associated with brain damage in its participants. The putative agent of the damage is repeated closed head injury, acquired as a consequence of blows to the head. In head injury the predominant neurobehavioral correlate is an attentional deficit. Past studies of boxers have revealed evidence of structural brain damage and behavioral deficits, whose prevalence depended on the boxers' age and boxing status. This study sought to determine if active boxers exhibited a deficit in attention. Eleven professional and three amateur boxers were tested. The examination consisted of measures of three aspects of attention: attentional capacity, sustained attention, and rate of information processing, all evaluated multivariately. As the boxers as athletes were thought to not be representative of the general population, a control group of non-contact sport athletes was employed for interpretive purposes. Each control was matched with a boxer on age, education, race, and father's occupation. It was hypothesized that the boxers would be impaired on all three aspects of attention studied. The results failed to confirm the hypotheses. Relative to controls, boxers were not impaired on any aspect of attention. Significant differences were obtained on individual tasks, but these differences did not support the hypotheses in all instances. The discussion explored possible flaws in the design, the measures used, the construct under study, and the specific groups used, that could have contributed to the failure to find an attentional deficit in this sample of boxers. The potential flaws were found to be without firm foundation and it was concluded that, for the present sample of boxers, the null hypothesis of no attentional deficit could not be rejected.



Boxing injuries, Psychological aspects, Head Wounds and injuries