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Concussions in Boxing and MMA: What's the Buzz About?

Lee Cleveland Updated
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"I think I got a concussion," Tim Bradley said last week, moments after he was announced the winner of a toe-to-toe slugfest.

Did Bradley really get a concussion?


He absorbed a lot of heavy head shots and appeared to be on the verge of being knocked out several times.

In December, fans were extremely worried that boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, who was momentarily put to sleep in devastating fashion by Juan Manuel Marquez, had suffered a concussion.

However, according to doctors, Pacquiao did not sustain a concussion.

In the last two years, the condition has garnered a lot of public and media attention - especially as it relates to NFL Football.

According to doctors, Manny Pacquiao didn't sustain a concussion after his one-punch knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez last December

news photo 31896 1355035098 630

Headgear Ban in Boxing
Last week, the International Boxing Association announced it is banning headgear in amateur boxing competitions in an effort to reduce concussions.

Its believed that boxers will avoid using their heads as weapons or hit as hard if they don’t feel as protected. Moreover,  headgear can partially obstruct a fighter's vision, making it more difficult to see an opponent’s blows.

Chris Benoit, Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and Gary Goodridge

In 2007, famed wresler Chris Benoit killed his wife and son before taking his own life.

After tests were conducted on Benoit's brain, results showed it was so severely damaged it resembled the brain of an 85-year-old Alzheimer's patient."

He was reported to have had an advanced form of dementia with caused extreme depression and made him a threat to himself and others.

It was concluded that repeated concussions can lead to dementia, which can contribute to severe behavioral problems.

Former football stars Junior Seau and Dave Duerson committed suicide with a self-inflicted gunshots in 2012 and 2011, respectively.

NFL legend Junior Seau

2001 Junior Seau--nfl large 590 Unlimited

The brains of both men were donated to science and studies showed Seau and Duerson suffered a neurodegenerative disorders. In Seau's case, it was determined he suffered from CTE, a condition traced to concussion-related brain damage with depression as a symptom.

And at the tender age of 46, Gary Goodridge, a retired, elite-level mixed martial artist, was diagnosed with early onset of dementia pugilistica in 2012. The mixed martial artist had 85 pro fights and was knocked out 24 times.

What is a concussion?
In layman's terms, its a "short circuiting" of the brain.

According to Mayo Clinic, a concussion is: A traumatic brain injury that alters the way your brain functions. Effects are usually temporary, but can include problems with headache, concentration, memory, judgment, balance and coordination.

Dr. Margaret Goodman, a ringside physician and prominent Las Vegas neurologist stated:

"The brain, which has the consistency of a hard custard, sits encased in fluid within the skull. The fluid acts like a shockabsorber and prevents injury to the brain when the head is struck. Multiple blows, or even a single blow, can result in a concussion. (Source: SecondsOut)

brain cc

Usually caused by repeated, violent blows to the head or sometimes just one, a concussion can cause a loss of consciousness but most do not.

What's most scary about this condition is one may have a concussion and not realize it.

Fortunately, most concussive brain injuries are not severe and people usually make a recovery if the brain is given time to rest and heal properly.

How serious is a concussion?
If loss of consciousnessnes occurred and/or there was the presence of amnesia of the events surrounding a fight, the fighter's concussion may be of a serious nature.

For instance, Timothy Bradley told HBO's Max Kellerman during his post-fight interview Saturday night that he couldn't remember much of what happened in his spectacular slugfest against Ruslan Provodnikov last week. 

And yes, its not terribly uncommon for a fighter, win or lose, to say they didn't remember several or most of the rounds.

Bob Foster, after being brutally KO'd by Joe Frazier, didn't remember the entire fight.

Frazier KOs Foster (Video is just 25 seconds in length)

After the bout, Foster was found in the locker room lacing his shoes and putting on his trunks. When asked by his trainer what was he doing, Foster stated he was getting ready to fight Frazier. At that moment, the trainer informed Foster he'd just been KO'd by Smokin' Joe.

As stated previously, repeated concussions or a severe individual concussion that's not giving time to heal can lead to dementia, which can contribute to severe behavioral problems.

Concussion symptoms
Its recommended someone be with a fighter for at least 24-48 hours after a bout if the fighter received at least one violent blow to the head.

During that time, it is crucial for the fighter him/herself, the trainers and/or the fighter's family and friends know what concussion symptoms to look for. These can include: 

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • ringing in the ears
  • blurred vision
  • fatigue/lethargy
  • weakness
  • memory loss
  • trouble with balance/coordination
  • sleeplessness OR sleepiness
  • personality changes and
  • depression/apathy 

Does long-term fighting or multiple bouts inevitably lead to concussions and eventual dementia?

Answer: Absolutely not. Well, not necessarily.

While long-term fighting increases one's chances of suffering concussions which can lead to dementia, there's no guarantee a fighter will or won't suffer a concussion and/or serious brain damage - even after repeated, violent blows to the head.

For example, a fighter with only 5 pro bouts may have had multiple concussions that lead to a form of dementia while a fighter with 300 bouts never gets a concussion nor suffers significant brain damage.

The professional career of boxing legend Archie Moore spanned nearly 30 years and 219 fights. Can you imagine number of times he was hit in sparring alone?

The Old Mongoose, Archie Moore


Nevertheless, Moore was sharp and witty into his late 70s/early 80s and, as a trainer,  even helped Big George Foreman regain the heavyweight title at the age of 45.  

Arguably, Moore, at 80 and after 200+ fights, was in better cognitive shape than a lot of people his age who had never competed in boxing, MMA or any other rough, violent sport.

Fight legend Jake LaMotta, a veteran of over 100 fights and a straight-up brawler whose raw and courageous style seemingly invited head injury, is still going strong at 90 and remains active and alert, holding speak engagements, signing autographs and promoting his books. Moreover, he recently married his longtime girlfriend.

How are concussions determined?
A diagnosis of a concussion is made via a thorough neurological examination with includes observations of the fighter's memory, concentration, speech, language capabilities, balance, coordination, and strength. 

In some cases, the fighter's head will be examined for potential skull fractures. Also, vision and hearing may also be checked.

If a fighter, win or lose, has just had a brusing bout and doesn't appear normal send him/her them to the hospital ASAP. He/she may have suffered a concussion, multiple concussions or a subdural hematoma (blood clot), which is even worse and can lead to death.

Moreover, even if a fighter doesn't show the aforementioned signs but was viciously knocked out or lost consciousness during the bout, he should probably see a doctor anyway.

The information herein is not the opinion of a medical professional or someone even close. Always consult a physician if you have sustained a concussion or any other brain-related injuries.


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