Posted on April 4, 2010 · Posted in Brain Injury
Editor's Note: In the category of the ridiculous:

UFC worrying about risk factors for its fighters?

Ultimate Fight Championship welterweight Thiago “Pitbull” Alves may be alive today because he was scheduled to fight in New Jersey, which has some of the strictest rules regarding pre-fight clearances. And that may have saved Alves.

Under the New Jersey State Athletic Commission rules, Alves had to get a CT scan performed before he was slated to fight against Jon Fitch at UFC 111 March 27. Alves was pulled out of the bout after his CT scan showed that one of the arteries in his brain had an irregularity.

Alves underwent minor surgery March 31, and plans to resume his fighting career.

In a blog called, Dr. Johnny Benjamin, dubbed a “combat-sports specialist,” was asked if it was normal for fighters to get a CT scan before every match, and whether the radiation from so many scans could be harmful.

Dr. Benjamin said it wasn’t typical for fighters to get scans before each fight.

”All fighters should probably undergo a brain scan on a yearly basis – or more frequently if they have recent or significant histories of concussions, including knockouts,” the good doctor wrote. “(Remember: All KOs are by definition concussions, but you can very easily sustain a concussion and not be knocked out.) But unfortunately very few state athletic commissions (SACs) require this level of testing/monitoring.”

Then Dr. Benjamin credited Jersey’s tough pre-fight requirements with probably saving 26-year-old Alves.

”Alves is a blessed man for having the good fortune of being slated for the UFC 111 card, which took place took place in New Jersey,” the physician wrote. “Why? Because New Jersey happens to have one of the best, if not the best, SACs in the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board. New Jersey, Nevada and Ohio have the best SACs, from a fighter-safety perspective, in the U.S.”

According to Dr. Benjamin, “Nick Lembo runs the show in the ‘Garden State’ and in my humble opinion is the finest combat sports administrator/regulator in the game, bar none. He is an MMA pioneer and is more than just casually responsible for the advances and rules that led to the modern-age of MMA.”

The doctor said that New Jersey has some of the most stringent rules in the game regarding pre-fight clearances and evaluations.

“Just for starters, all fighters must submit for review to their group of specialized physicians a recent brain scan (CT or MRI), comprehensive physical exam, urinalysis, 12-lead EKG, dilated eye exam by an ophthalmologist and blood work that tests for HIV, CBC, PT/PTT, Hep B surface antigen and Hep C,” Dr. Benjamin wrote. “That’s just a warm-up. If their physicians have issue with any of this material, they can and will require more extensive testing until they are satisfied.”

In conclusion, the doctor wrote, “This level of scrutiny may seem onerous and heavy handed to some, but the diligence of the NJSAC and Dr. Sherry Wulkan in particular more than likely saved Alves’ life.”

Our comment is that if fighting must continue, then the test that should be administered is an MRI, not a CT. The CT is the best test to determine whether a boxer has a severe injury from a fight just concluded, but only in rare cases, would it spot evidence of prior brain injury, because CT is good at seeing blood or swelling of the brain. Once those conditions have cleared, it tells far less than the MRI. Alves was lucky that he had the kind of condition, related to where the blood was, to spot his condition. Too bad he wants to keep challenging his luck by going back in the ring.

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447