A study published in the British Journal of Sports showed that risk factors for developing CTE are not only present in NFL players, but combat athletes as well.
According to a breakdown by Bloody Elbow and MMA News, the study focuses on TES (Traumatic Encephalopathy Syndrome) and information provided by the PBHS (Professional Fighters Brain Health Study) showed a comparison of the damages dealt to fighters and NFL players. Seventy-two individuals of the fighters (41%) in the study came up as TES positive.
For the fighters’ tests, 176 combat athletes were looked at. Of that number, 109 were retired, 110 were boxers and the remaining were MMA fighters. All of them were past 35 years old.
CTE can only be officially diagnosed post-mortem, but for fighters like former top UFC lightweight Spencer Fisher, you can track the symptoms before then.
Fisher fought his last bout in June 2012 following a unanimous decision loss to Sam Stout. He finished 24-9 in his MMA career. But it was just last year that Fisher was declared “permanently” disabled and unable to work.
“I ended up going for a physical and they found lesions in my brain which led to further studies and I found out I have dementia,” Fisher previously said.
“I forget where I’m going; depression. Dizzy spells, calling people different names not knowing their actual names. My kids, I’ve had instances in the past that I couldn’t think of their name on the spot. I have a hard time remembering what I did yesterday and last week’s complete blur. My long-term memory is okay but my short-term memory is gone.”
When UFC President Dana White was questioned about Fisher’s status, he said:
“Listen, he’s not the first and he’s definitely not going to be the last,” White said. “This is a contact sport and anybody who’s done this younger, myself included, is dealing with brain issues. It’s part of the gig.”
Former UFC heavyweight and boxer Tim Hague was discovered to have CTE during an autopsy. He died two days after getting knocked out by Adam Braidwood in a boxing match. He was 34 years old.
The study also noted that the younger the fighter starts competition, the more likely they’ll develop the condition over time.