Dementia Pugilistica- Wtf is that?

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Posted By Mike Smith

When I was young trainer in the late 90’s there was a older gentleman who use to hang out at the gym. He always smiled and shook hands and walked with a slow shuffle. If you looked closely his hands trembled slighty. I asked one of the veteran trainers who is this guy and what’s his story. He said ” Mikey that’s former world champion Emile Griffith he was a great fighter it’s so sad he’s punchy”. My first reaction was “wow” and WTF is punchy ?

( Emile Griffith was a former world boxing champion that had 112 pro fights winning 85 of them. As a trainer he coached 2 world champions Wilfred Benitez and Jaun Laporte. In 2005 he was featured in a award wining documentary ring of fire)
As days , months and years passed I kept hearing the term punchy or punch drunk . Punchy or punch drunk are slang boxing terms for Dementia Pugilista. DP occurs when the fighter takes to many punches to the head that results in reoccuring concussions. To understand this in layman terms a former Olympic boxer explained it to me like this ” There is a bowl of jello with a walnut in the middle. Everytime you get punched the walnut spins and hit the side of the bowl and the walnut gets damaged. The walnut is your brain the jello brain fluid and the bowl your skull.” The signs of a concussion are:
Memory loss
Difficulty keeping balance
Symptoms of DP takes a long period to develop. The average time is 10 to 15 years after the start of your career, this condition affects 20 to 30% of all pro fighters. Some of the first warning signs of DP occur in the ring. Fighters who use to have a rock solid chins they are getting  knocked out by fighters with little punching power, this is what I call stage 1.

Stage 2:

The fighter is in the twilight of his career close to retirement you start to see :

Slurred speech

Personality changes

Decline in mental sharpness

Stage 3 ( Sadly I saw many fighters , former champs and coaches at this stage in my many years at Gleasons Gym)

Loss in motor skills

The shakes

Slurred speech to the point where you can’t understand them

no memory at all

This is not only limited to boxers, mma fighters are starting to show signs of this also. One of the most  well documented cases is that of mma fighter Gary “Big Daddy” Goodrige. Gary is a ufc , pride and k1 vet with a combined 85 fights. He takes medicine for his memory loss and depression resulting from DP. There is no cure for DP but they are a few precautions you can take as a fighter to lower the odds.

Wearing headgear

Do not engage in gym wars

Spar hard only 2 times a week

Have good defense and head movement

A fight career has a shelf life you have to know when to hang up the gloves and retire. When you fight pass your prime you start to get hit with punches and kicks you use to aviod and its only a matter of time before DP  symptoms to show its ugly head.