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15 NOVEMBER 2018


Do the referees need to wear gloves in the ring?

By Flip Homansky MD

Boxing is a blood sport. It is a rare card in which no one sustains a laceration. The blood will frequently spurt not only on the affected fighter, but also on the referee. So, should everyone in the ring wear gloves? The simple answer is sure...if you as a referee are concerned, then you should wear disposable rubber gloves for every match you are involved in. The scientific facts are a little more complicated.

A little history before we go further. This issue came to prominence with the advent of AIDS. States should be routinely testing their fighters for this disease, but there is still a small window in time in which the test may be negative and the combatant may indeed have the virus. AIDS is just one of many diseases that is transmitted by blood contact. Hepatitis is 100 times more contagious than the virus that causes AIDS. Even if the fighters are tested for hepatitis, they also may still be able to transmit certain types of this disease. Hence a few commissions required not only gloves for the refs, but also the cornermen. This seemed to make everyone feel more comfortable, but did it actually make the sport safer? What I observed were gloves being re-used (which is actually a perfect way to spread problems between bouts) and even gloves with the fingers cut out so they would not encumber the user. Obviously not the hoped for solution. Now we have some referees who do use gloves for certain bouts, and a lot of confusion. My belief is that all officials should have as many facts as possible, and then the ability to wear gloves if they wish.

The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta has specific recommendations for preventing virus contamination in the Emergency Department (where I work), when blood or other human secretions may be in the environment. They do require the use of approved gloves. They also require a mask over my mouth, a full shield over my eyes, a disposable gown over my clothes, and booties. That is the only way to fully protect oneself. In other words - a body condom! Gloves alone are a nice touch, but they give very little protection.

The problem is that blood and sweat and spit become aerosolized very easily. Small droplets of these substances go everywhere, not just where we see them. This is a problem for everyone at ringside, not just those in the ring. I mean the judges, commissioners, even heaven forbid, the supervisors. Some of the “swells” in the pricey seats will also definitely come in contact with these awful substances.

What does all of this mean?

1) There is no definitely documented case of AIDS being spread in sports....ever.

2) Commissions should check their athletes for communicable diseases like AIDS and hepatitis.

3) If you have a cut or other significant abrasion on your hand you should wear gloves.

4) Those at ringside should remember to cover their drinks and their mouths.

5) A simple solution of water and Clorox, (10 parts of water to 1 part of Clorox) should be used to clean off any blood. This will kill almost all viruses we worry about.

6) All of those involved at ringside should receive the 3 part hepatitis immunization.

Common sense or a Body Condom - you choose.

Flip Homansky MD


Dr. Flip Homansky is currently Commissioner of the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC). For over twenty years, he served as Chairman of the Medical Advisory Board and Chief Ringside Physician for the NSAC.

Dr. Flip Homansky practices in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he had been a licensed ringside physician and Chairman of the Medical Advisory Board for the Nevada State Athletic Commission for over twenty years. His medical specialty is in the field of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Homansky was appointed by Nevada’s Governor, Kenny C. Guinn, in 2000, to serve as a Commissioner of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Although he is currently a Commissioner of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, all of the views, opinions, and/or recommendations contained herein are solely his own and do not necessary reflect those of Nevada’s Commission. All readers are strongly cautioned that the information contained herein is not intended to, and never should, substitute for the necessity of seeking the advice of a qualified medical professional whenever a boxer or his/her representatives have specific questions regarding the best course of action that a boxer should take. Furthermore, since it is possible that general information herein may pertain only to a law, regulation, rule or acceptable standard of practice for a particular jurisdiction, a boxer or his/her representatives must always inquire with the appropriate licensing jurisdiction to determine the applicable laws, regulations, rules, and acceptable standards of practice for each jurisdiction.

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