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What is Dementia Pugilistica?

MRIEmile Griffith boxed professionally from 1958 to 1977, winning five World Championship titles before his retirement at age 39. Halfway through his career, Emile began to complain of cognitive difficulties, saying “he felt muffled in the head, as if his brain were lined with soft cotton.”  His speech began to slow; tremors developed in his hands. Long before he quit boxing, Griffith showed looming signs of dementia pugilistica.

Boxers who fight professionally are at risk for developing this degenerative condition, a form of progressive brain damage that is the cumulative effect of sustaining repeated blows to the head.

A typical boxer is capable of throwing six hundred punches in a twelve-round fight; over his entire career, he may absorb thousands of such blows. No one in the history of boxing fought more world title rounds than Emile Griffith: he battled 337 rounds in the championship ring. For him, dementia pugilistica was perhaps an unavoidable consequence of a distinguished athletic career.

Dementia pugilistica causes a range of cognitive, psychiatric and motor problems, including:

  • slurred speech
  • memory loss
  • impaired reasoning
  • emotional outbursts
  • personality changes
  • lack of impulse control
  • slowed movement
  • diminished fine motor skills
  • physical tremors

Posted on September 16, 2016 in Productions

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