Irish Olympic champion Katie Taylor could be risking her health and her future each time she steps in the ring, a leading British neuroscientist has warned.
Professor John Hardy told The Sun this week that the Irish gold medal winner may end up fighting Alzheimer’s disease just like another legend of the ring Muhammad Ali.
Boxing is 'a terrible thing,' said Hardy, adding that repeated blows to the head can not only lead to Alzheimer's but also to severe depression.
Hardy is chair of the Molecular Biology of Neurological Disease at University College London and has nothing good to say about boxing: 'We shouldn’t get our fun out of watching people inflict brain damage on each other. To me as a neuroscientist it’s almost surreal.'
'As far as I’m concerned seeing women boxing at the Olympics was a terrible thing, not because women should not compete alongside men in sport, but because women boxing simply means more people inflicting damage on more brains.'
Hardy, whose research work reportedly focuses on dementia, described what happens to the boxer’s brain:
'You get tiny lesions along the blood vessels where they have torn the nerve cells around them. This damages those nerve cells, and those cells start to develop the tangles that you see in Alzheimer’s disease. And what we now understand is that this process spreads.'
But Doctor Maura Woolfson, Medical Officer with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, took a different view and insisted that safety is paramount for everyone involved in the organisation.
Woolfson said: 'Of course it’s a contact sport and there is a potential risk involved with any sport, but there has never ever been any serious neurological damage, as far as we are aware, in amateur boxing.
'In my ten years or so with the IABA I’ve never had to refer anyone to a neurologist, the most serious injury I’ve dealt with is minor concussion, with no long-term effects.
'There is an ongoing study comparing if the reflexes and hormonal levels of boxers in old age are different to those of people who have never boxed, but it will be another 20 or 30 years before we know those results.'