Nathan Johnson died just days after competing in an Original Toughman Contest. Some suspect he was the victim of so-called second-impact syndrome, a case where a previous head injury exacerbates a later head injury.
The 23-year-old Johnson of Ada, Okla., passed away Tuesday, three days after fighting in the Toughman contest in Oklahoma City, Okla. In Toughman fights, fighters have padded headgear and 16-ounce gloves.
Johnson fought both Friday and Saturday, participating in several matches. After beating one opponent Saturday, Johnson beat another fighter and was set to battle yet another one when he fell ill and collapsed. He was taken to OU Medical Center for surgery. He had sustained a skull fracture and a cerebral hemorrhage, and was put in a medically induced coma.
Johnson had undergone preflight physicals and cardio checks, and they didn’t turn up any problems. But Johnson had complained to his parents on Saturday, after his Friday fight, that he had a headache and had “a shooting star” sensation in one of his eyes.
One doctor believes that Johnson has sustained brain damage on Friday night, and that led to Saturday’s deadly injury.
To add to the tragedy of such a young man dying, Johnson was engaged, and his fiancée is pregnant with the couple’s daughter.
There is just no getting around the “second impact” problem in boxing or other unarmed combatant contests. If we are serious about high school football no return to play rules, we must be also serious about stopping the modern gladiators.