Pituitary dysfunction common in retired boxers
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Boxers may suffer more that split lips, broken noses, and concussions. A new study shows a high rate of dysfunction in the brain's pituitary gland among a group of retired Turkish boxers.
The pituitary gland -- a small bean-shaped organ located at the base of the skull - is considered the body's thermostat, monitoring the function of various other glands and organs. The pituitary consequences of chronic head trauma suffered during boxing have not been studied in detail.
This led Dr. Fatih Tanriverdi from Erciyes University Medical School, Kayseri, Turkey and colleagues to study pituitary function in 61 amateur boxers from the Turkish National Boxing Team; 44 were actively competing in the sport and 17 had retired.
Among all 61 boxers, 9 (15 percent) had growth hormone deficiency -- a disorder involving the pituitary gland that can produce a number of physical symptoms such as loss of strength, stamina and muscle mass, and psychological symptoms such as poor memory, social withdrawal, and depression. Abnormally low growth hormone levels in adults may diminish quality of life and can be disabling.
Nearly half of the retired boxers (i.e., those with the longest boxing histories) had growth hormone deficiency. The volume of the pituitary gland was also markedly lower in retired boxers with growth hormone deficiency compared with retired boxers with normal growth hormone levels.
The investigators also found that 8 percent of all boxers were deficient in the stress hormone ACTH which is produced by the pituitary gland.
Growth hormone and ACTH deficiencies were higher in the boxers than would be expected in a general population, Tanriverdi and colleagues note in a report of the study appearing in the Annals of Internal Medicine this week.
This study shows that chronic head trauma due to sports injury may be associated with pituitary dysfunction and decreased pituitary volume, and the researchers suggest that retired boxers and competing boxers with a history of concussion have the their pituitary gland function checked.
SOURCE: Annals of Internal Medicine, June 3, 2008.