4th May 2018, Volume 131 Number 1474

Vahid Payman, Susan Yates, Sarah Cullum

We present a case series of eight former amateur or professional boxers, all of Pacific background and all living in South Auckland, New Zealand, seven of whom present with early…

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Summary

We found an unusually large number of Samoan and Tongan former boxers in South Auckland who were suffering from early onset (40 and 50 years of age) dementia. When we looked into their histories, we found that most of had drunk heavily in their youth and also had other risk factors for dementia such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. We think that a combination of head injuries from boxing as well as these other risk factors puts young Pacific boxers at increased risk of developing early onset dementia. Sports physicians should warn young Pacific boxers about this risk.

Abstract

Aim

To describe the biopsychosocial characteristics of a series of Pacific men living in South Auckland with a history of boxing presenting with early onset dementia. We discuss the history of boxing in Pacific people and the possibility of increased risk of early onset dementia in New Zealand Pacific men compared to their European counterparts.

Method

We reviewed the files of Pacific men with a history of amateur or professional boxing who presented to our memory and older adult mental health services with early onset dementia over a 45-month period. We gathered relevant information to construct a biopsychosocial paradigm as possible explanation of this phenomenon.

Results

We identified a series of eight New Zealand Pacific men with early onset dementia and with a history of boxing. Alcohol was a contributing factor in seven of the eight cases, and vascular risk factors in five.

Conclusion

Historical, cultural and socio-economic factors underpin the attraction of some Pacific men to boxing as a sport. Given that New Zealand Pacific peoples may have an earlier onset of dementia than their European counterparts, further research is required to establish whether boxing is a contributory factor. Sports physicians should advise young New Zealand Pacific boxers about the long-term risks associated with their sport.

Author Information

Vahid Payman, Koropiko Mental Health Services for Older People, Middlemore Hospital, Otahuhu, Auckland; Susan Yates, The Memory Team, Middlemore Hospital, Otahuhu, Auckland;
Sarah Cullum, Department of Psychological Medicine, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, The University of Auckland, Auckland Mail Centre, Auckland.

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to acknowledge Dr Staverton Kautoke and Dr Mark Fisher for comments on earlier drafts of this paper, Dr Francis Wu for reporting the CT scans, and Susan Brock for help in retrieving patient files. 

Correspondence

Dr Vahid Payman, Koropiko Mental Health Services for Older People, Middlemore Hospital, Private Bag 93311, Otahuhu, Auckland.

Correspondence Email

vahidpayman@gmail.com

Competing Interests

Nil.

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