An Investigation Into Changes in Cognitive Function of Irish Amateur Boxers as They Approach Their Weight Category Weight

Laura Mahony , Sharon Madigan , Barry O'Neill , C M Bleakley, AM McNeilly

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Boxing is a combat sport which typically sees athletes competing at the lightest bodyweight possible to gain a competitive advantage. Several methods are used to reduce bodyweight and traditionally dehydration has played a significant role in rapid weight-loss. These rapid weight-loss methods have been shown to result in decrements in cognitive performance and can impact both short and long-term health and sports performance. 8 members of the Irish High-Performance boxing programme who were in the process of ‘making-weight’ participated in this research. Baseline hydration, body weight, skinfolds, (sum of 7), and cognitive assessments (simple and choice reaction time, attention, learning and memory) were completed six weeks prior to a targeted competition. These measurements were then repeated in the week of the targeted competition, as participants were ‘making-weight’. There were statistically significant changes in bodyweight (n = 8), and in the corresponding weight above weight category, but no statistically significant changes in skinfolds (n = 5) or hydration, (n = 8) over the 6-week training block. At baseline, mean hydration levels were 800 mOsm·kg−1 and this increased to >850 mOsm·kg−1 over the 6 weeks. There were no statistically significant changes found in the cognitive function measurements. Due to the wide variation in hydration levels, it cannot be ascertained if hydration status affected reaction times in this study. There is also the element of habitual dehydration that boxers go through whilst making weight, further research is warranted to see if the body does adapt to these situations. Even though there were no statistically significant changes found in simple and choice reaction time speeds; from a practical application, coaches may be interested to note that 6 of the 8 boxers were slower in both of these elements as they came closer to their targeted competition. This warrants further investigation to determine, if weight making practices were improved, could reaction times also improve.
Original languageEnglish
Article number31 (S1)
Pages (from-to)S1-2
Number of pages1
JournalInternational Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
Issue numberS1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 26 Feb 2021


  • boxing
  • cognition
  • weight making


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