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Growth hormone deficiency in boxers

About one in five older boxers and kick boxers no longer produce enough growth hormone in their brains, report endocrinologists at Erciyes University in Turkey soon in Clinical Endocrinology. The cause? Brain damage from the blows they've received.

Hormonal disturbances are common in people who have suffered head injuries. In 2007 the researchers published the results of a study of a group of patients which showed that a year after incurring a serious head injury 6 percent synthesised too little TSH, 8 percent too little LH, 20 percent too little ACTH and 38 percent too little growth hormone. [J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Jun;91(6):2105-11.]

People who practise martial arts are more likely to incur head trauma, which is why the researchers wanted to know whether there is a relationship between brain damage and a too low growth hormone synthesis among older boxers and kick boxers.

The Turks got together a group of 41 people who practised or had practised martial arts, and discovered that 9 of them did indeed have too little growth hormone in their blood. They no longer reacted well to GHRH or GHRP-6 when administered, and their IGF-1 level was low. A high level of IGF-1 is often associated with a high level of growth hormone.

Growth hormone deficiency in boxers

The Turks measured the amount of brain damage their subjects had using electrodes and sound. Healthy people's brains react after about 300 msec by emitting an electrical pulse, known as the P300. If the pulse is delayed or abnormally weak it indicates that there is brain damage.

In 2007 Canadian researchers reported that football players that had incurred concussion on the playing field had a weakened P300. [Brain Inj. 2007 Jun;21(6):631-44.]

Among the subjects with a too low growth hormone level the Turkish researchers recorded a weakened P300 more often. Which provides a little more evidence of the relationship between brain damage caused by martial arts and hormonal disturbances.

Growth hormone deficiency in boxers

American animal studies have shown that fish oil supplements help protect the brains of experimental animals against blows to the head. You can read more about this here.

The people who performed these studies believe that they can extrapolate their results to humans. If they are correct, then those who practise martial arts may be able to protect their growth hormone production by taking fish oil supplements.

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2012 Sep 20. doi: 10.1111/cen.12037. [Epub ahead of print].

Fish oil for boxers 30.06.2011