McGregor vs Mayweather: What happens to the brain in a knockout?

The brain doesn’t like to be moved, that’s why it’s suspended in fluid within your skull.

If you hit the skull hard enough you can cause the brain to bump the insides which may cause the neurones (long cells that make up the brain) to become stretched, twisted or damaged.

  • What actually causes a person to become “knocked-out” is damage to a part of the brain called the Reticular Activating System
    Click on image for more info

A concussion is a description of when this happens. It presents as confusion and often the person cannot remember the 24hrs preceding the incident that caused it.

What actually causes a person to become “knocked-out” is damage to a part of the brain called the Reticular Activating System. If this part of the brain is hit, a person will pass out.

The RAS is located at the bottom of your brain at its stem, from the outside you could say it’s between the earlobes.

Unfortunately for boxers the main target of their profession is to effectively hit this part of the brain to switch it off and “knock out” their opponent. The rotational force provided by the swing of a fist is one of the single best ways to do this.

  •  The RAS is located at the bottom of your brain at its stem, from the outside you could say it’s between the earlobes
    Click on image for more info

The neurones of the brain do not regenerate very well at all and, in fact result in the release of dangerous chemicals that exacerbate any damage done.

However in many cases of concussions the neurones are only mildly stretched or bumped and no lasting damage is done, however studies show repeated concussions are linked to:

• Altzheimers

• Parkinsons

• Slowed muscle movements

• Episodic memory (memories of your life)

• Depression

It makes you glad that Mcgregor lost by a TKO (Technical knockout) instead of a complete knock out!

  •  A technical knockout is less severe that a complete knockout
    Click on image for more info

References

Sam Fitzpatrick Final Year Medical Student, Cardiff University.

Milad Rouf Final Year Medical Student, Cardiff University.

K Maiese, 2008 . "Concussion". The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook.

L De Beaumont et al 2009. "Brain function decline in healthy retired athletes who sustained their last sports concussion in early adulthood". Brain. 132 (Pt 3): 695–708. PMID 19176544. doi:10.1093/brain/awn347.

Manley, G., Gardner, A., Schneider, K., Guskiewicz, K., Bailes, J., Cantu, R., Castellani, R., Turner, M., Jordan, B., Randolph, C., Dvořák, J., Hayden, K., Tator, C., McCrory, P. and Iverson, G. (2017). A systematic review of potential long-term effects of sport-related concussion. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 51(12), pp.969-977.