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U of M study finds link between body sway and nausea

Research published in PLOS ONE

October 4, 2012

Pre-bout standing body sway in boxers predicts the feeling of sickness or nausea after the bout, University of Minnesota researchers found in a study published Wednesday in PLOS ONE.

Thomas Stoffregen, professor in U of M’s School of Kinesiology, and his team measured body sway - defined as the slight postural movements made by an individual to maintain a balanced position - of 15 adult boxers before warming-up for a bout and after the warm-up session, immediately before they entered the ring.

After the bout, each boxer was asked whether or not they felt sick.

The study found that those with more body sway before the bout reported feeling sick after the bout, win or lose.

“We naturally think that everyone is the ‘same’ before competition and that it is how hard you’re hit during the bout that determines how ‘sick’ a boxer feels afterwards,” said Stoffregen. “However, in this case, we found that movement before the bout is actually what predicts a feeling of sickness afterward.”

A physician, looking for symptoms of a concussion, studied each of the 15 boxers afterwards and found none suffered a concussion.

Concussions are often associated with nausea and boxing is typically linked to concussions and nausea.

“But we found that while a blow to the head was enough to make you sick, it wasn’t enough to give you a concussion,” said Stoffregen. “This study raises the possibility that we can actually predict who is more susceptible to concussions simply by measuring body sway.”

To conduct this comprehensive study, Stoffregen measured body sway by having boxers look at a blank piece of paper followed by a piece of paper with text on it. These measurements were taken with subjects feet in three different positions.

After the bout, each boxer was asked whether or not they felt sick. Of those who said yes, all had more body sway before the bout than the others.

Winning or losing the bout didn’t factor into the feeling of sickness or nausea.

For more than 15 years, Stoffregen has studied relations between body sway and feelings of sickness. Previous studies have tested the effect with motion sickness and seasickness.

PLOS ONE is the flagship journal of the Public Library of Science.

The full article is available at: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0046136

For interviews with Stoffregen, please contact Steve Baker or Steve Henneberry.
 

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