Framework

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Laura Serrano, 43, has fought in 23 bouts and this year is returning to the ring after an absence of several years. She's is participating in a study in which her brain activity will be monitored with yearly tests as she endures the punishment of her sport.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Laura Serrano shadow boxes during a workout at her Las Vegas gym. She's among the first professional fighters to participate in a Cleveland Clinic study that aims to spot indicators of brain damage and improve treatments.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Laura Serrano prepares for a workout at her Las Vegas gym. She worries about the level of medical attention fighters receive. “I remember once in training against a male fighter, he hit me so hard in the temple I felt my body shaking from my head to my toes,” Serrano said. “Horrible, horrible feeling. I realized then, ‘Whoops, this is dangerous. You can die or get brain damage from this.' ”

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Laura Serrano is helped up after an hour-long MRI at the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas. She'll also undergo yearly cognitive and speech tests as part of the study.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Imaging specialist Trish Lake walks with boxer Laura Serrano after Serrano's recent MRI.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Neurologist Charles Bernick meets with boxer Laura Serrano in Las Vegas. Of the study he's leading, he says: “The hypothesis is that we will find changes — be it in a brain scan, blood flow, brain fiber sheathing or the size of the brain — that will allow us to establish objective markers for ongoing damage [and] to inform the fighter where he stands."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Laura Serrano kisses her 2-year-old son Fernando before heading into her gym for a workout.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Laura Serrano works out in Las Vegas recently. She's part of a study of the brains of professional boxers and mixed martial arts fighters. Boxing trainer Freddie Roach, who is based in Hollywood, says: "Something from a high medical authority that can show a boxer's deterioration [and] force guys to retire would be good. That's the only way you're going to get guys to listen."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Imaging specialist Trish Lake helps up boxer Mike Martinez, 32, after an MRI at the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas. Charles Bernick, the neurologist leading the study that Martinez is participating in, says: “We know fighting is not good for your health. We're now just trying to use the technology available to help protect people from a lifetime of dementia, depression or some other chronic residual” effect.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Boxer Mike Martinez, 32, works out at his gym after an MRI at the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Boxer Mike Martinez in front of a mural of Rocky Marciano outside his Las Vegas gym. An eye injury has kept Martinez out of boxing for almost five years.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

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Studying fighter’s brains

A prestigious neurology clinic has launched an unprecedented study of professional fighters’ brains with the goal of advancing research to improve various treatments for brain damage.

“We know what permanent brain damage looks like in its final stages, but we know so little about what causes it and what happens during cumulative trauma,” said Maureen Peckman of the Cleveland Clinic. Peckman is coordinating the new study between the clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas and officials with the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

The study hopes to get 500 boxers and mixed martial arts fighters to volunteer for the research project. It is being funded by a grant in excess of $400,000 by billionaire Kirk Kerkorian’s Lincy Foundation.

Participants will undergo four annual MRI brain scans, along with physical, cognitive and speech tests to monitor how brain activity can be altered by suffering head trauma in the ring.

Read the full story by Lance Pugmire: “New study to assess brain damage in professional fighters.”

1 Comment

  1. July 17, 2011, 7:56 pm

    That nose is fake!!

    By: dax

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