CAN you think of anything that you have done 49,688 times? Slept, maybe? Well, if you’re 60 years old and have slept once a day, every day since you have been on Earth, then you have slept 21,900 times so you’re still not even halfway there.
The reason I ask is that I believe I have been punched in the head this many times and I know it has done some damage to me. Fighters never talk about the damaging effect boxing can have on you when they’re in the gym – it would be silly of us to think about it when we’re training. Yeah, we would have the odd joke, calling each other ‘punchy’ but that was about it.
It wasn’t until I had retired and I started looking into chronic traumatic encephalopathy, aka CTE or ‘punch drunk’, that I thought about it. So, I’m going to get back to how I figured out I’ve been punched in the head nearly 50,000 times.
I started boxing when I was 10, but before I fought I had to spar – and spar a lot back then. I used to only spar around four rounds at a time and this was three times a week. It was about four months of boxing training before I had my first fight aged 11.
Four rounds, three times a week comes to 12 rounds a week. If you multiply that by five months, it works out at 240 rounds sparring. Now, at this age when I was learning, let’s say I was hit 10 times each round, it meant I was punched in the head around 2,400 times aged just 11.
I had 106 fights in my career, and let’s say I averaged four rounds a fight; that’s 424 rounds I’ve fought. Now, let’s say for each of those rounds I was hit in the head seven times – I know it was more sometimes and fewer others – that’s 2,968 times I’ve been punched from my fights.
So, if I sparred 10 times for each fight, and each spar was six rounds, that would mean I’d sparred 6,360 rounds. Now, stay with me here, seven headshots in each round would mean I’d received 44,520 blows to the head.
Add all of those numbers together from the sparring before I had any fights, then sparring when I was fighting, plus the actual fights, that number is 49,688. I know this is give or take, but you get the idea, right?
This is not including the times where I have been blocking punches on my guard and the impact from my hands hit me in the face.
Obviously, this has had some effect on my brain. I would be punch drunk if I thought otherwise. In Las Vegas, they are doing a fighter study where they have tested over 750 fighters’ brains, including mine. The guy leading the study, Dr. Charles Bernick, knows all about a boxer’s brain and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
I went there in 2016 for my first test as I was worried about the damage that being punched had done to me. I am afraid of early dementia, which is now the leading cause of death in the UK. This has nothing to do with boxing, but being punched in the head nearly, maybe 50,000 times has surely had some effect on me.
When I was there, he told me that my results were ‘average’ for my age, which I was very happy about. But he then went on to tell me that, as far as he knew, three years ago I could have been above average. This meant I had to go back this year to find out more results, this makes sense right?
I got a call from the doctor two weeks after the tests with my MRI results. He told me that I had a very large split in my membrane – the membrane is what attaches your brain to your skull. He explained that when you receive a hard blow to the head it shakes your brain around your skull which has caused the split. I was nearly in tears as he explained this to me and he told me around 50% of fighters who he has tested have this split, but there is no evidence right now that it affects you in everyday life.
I recently went back and did my tests again to find out if there were any improvements or decline with the mind. It was such a nerve-racking experience to go back and do this. A lot of people told me that they thought it was a waste of time because there is nothing you can do if you find out that you are punchy, but I found out from Dr. Bernick that this statement is false and there are things you can do. He was kind enough to come on my podcast to reveal my latest brain test results – you can listen here.
I highly recommend all boxers to listen to this podcast and really look into the safety of boxing to see if there is anything you can be doing right now to make sure you give yourself the least chance possible of becoming punchy.
If you’re a boxer or know a boxer that wants to do this treatment, it’s free. They pay for your flight if it’s within the United States, and also your accommodation in Vegas. You can contact Pam for more details – email: DINOP@ccf.org.
But please if you know anyone that maybe suffering from CTE or anyone that you think would be interested in listening to this, share this podcast episode with them where I talk to the worlds leading fighters brain doctor, I really want to raise as much awareness to this as possible. CLICK THIS LINK TO LISTEN for free.