By Margaret Goodman, MD
Many are surprised that Ring Doctors have other responsibilities besides “jumping” into the ring when a fighter goes down. Immediately after every bout, a Ring Doctor follows a fighter to their dressing room for a post-fight examination. Few too many people are even aware that a fighter often receives some sort of suspension whether they win or lose. This can often be a determining factor as to when you will see that fighter in the ring again
A suspension is given in 2 parts: 1) days off before a boxer can begin sparring; 2) time before a boxer can schedule his/her next fight. Suspensions must be reported to the national registry (Fight Fax) within 48 hours. In the US, every state must honor the suspension. Every suspension is public knowledge.
An “Automatic Suspension” is dictated by the number of rounds the boxer fought. For example, a fighter like Lennox Lewis could have scheduled another fight within 1 week of the his last fight with Rahman, as less than five rounds were completed. Alternatively, after Lennox fought David Tua he would have had to wait at least 30 days before returning to the gym and 45 days before scheduling another bout, as the fight went a total of 12 rounds.
A “Medical Suspension” is given at the discretion of the Ringside Physician depending on the injuries the fighter sustained. After Fernando Vargas fought Felix Trinidad, he received a 90-day suspension before he could schedule another fight, and a 60-day suspension before he could return to sparring. Winning or losing a fight has no influence on the suspension. In other words, sometimes the winner can look a great deal worse than the loser!
Cuts have a world of suspensions all their own. It certainly makes sense that the depth and location of the cut demand different rest periods to heal. Cuts to the forehead, and scalp are usually deep and the result of head butts. Nevertheless, they tend to heal more quickly than those sustained to the delicate skin around the eye.
For example, Clarence “Bones” Adams sustained a deep laceration from a butt in the 11th round of his first fight with Paulie Ayala. It required 3 layers of stitches from a qualified Plastic Surgeon. As a result, that laceration didn’t open up at all during his recent rematch last month.
Sometimes fighters are required to undergo specific medical evaluations before his/her suspension can be lifted. A boxer whose fight is stopped because he can’t see will be sent to the Emergency Room to rule out a detached retina or corneal abrasion. The boxer will be given an “Automatic” 180-day suspension, and must be cleared by an Ophthalmologist. If the follow-up exam is normal, the suspension will be dropped.
Putting it another way, a fighter who says, “I can’t see,” must have his fight stopped. There might not have been any real injury (other than direct mild injury to the eye). Nevertheless, the doctor must err on the side of caution until a detailed exam can be conducted away from the ring. If nothing turns out to be wrong, then the suspension is completely lifted.
Situations are similar for orthopedic injuries such as those involving the shoulders, elbows, knees, or even nose. In the case of Michael Grant after his fight with Jameel McCline, he was transported immediately to the ER for x-rays, an orthopedic exam, and was given 180-day suspension ringside. In this case, he turned out to have a significant ankle fracture that necessitated surgery. Regardless of the days given, the fighter must be cleared by an orthopedist before his next fight date can be scheduled.
“Rest” is a word rarely mentioned in context to the sport of boxing for many reasons. Perhaps because of the “macho” image of the sport, but more importantly it is often neglected by a less than responsible trainer or a reckless fighter. Fighters forget that they will always have to face tomorrow as a winner or a loser, and more importantly one day everyone has to retire. His/her future often lies in how they take care of themselves following a tough bout. If you talk to someone the caliber of an Enamel Steward, Teddy Atlas, Freddie Roach they will each mention, “the magic of rest.” The very first thing that “Papa” Trinidad relayed to me after Tito lost to Bernard when I asked what Tito’s future would hold he responded, “Now Tito will rest and contemplate his future.” This seems like an obvious point; something that doesn’t even deserve mentioning. Nevertheless, these few crucial words are a “mind set.” They will often predict a fighter’s future success and assist them in avoiding potentially lethal consequences.
For some reason fighters too often ignore that the brain is just like any other part of the body that takes punishment. It can bruise, swell up, and not work well for a time after trauma. We would each think it idiotic for a boxer to go straight back to the gym and begin using a heavy bag or spar right after they fractured their hand. Well, it isn’t any different for your brain!
Head blows, especially those that result in a TKO/KO mean that the brain has been temporarily compressed against the skull. Subsequently, the circulation is temporarily disrupted. It is kind of like when the electricity goes off in your house. When it comes back on, the clocks need to be re-set, the VCR timer is off, your computer could have experienced a power surge and you need to re-boot! It takes a bit of time to get everything back to the way it was. Failure to take that time can make a fighter a set-up for future injuries including blood clots, and the “Punch-Drunk” Syndrome.
So the next time you sit at a fight, if you see one of the doctors following the fighter to the dressing room for a post-fight examination. This will not only partly determine when you’ll see that fighter again in the ring, but is also an integral part of the sport.
Dr. Margaret Goodman is a Ringside Physician and Chairman of the Medical Advisory Board of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Dr. Margaret Goodman practices in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she is a licensed ringside physician since 1994. Her medical specialty is in the field of Neurology. Dr. Goodman was appointed by Nevada’s Governor, Kenny C. Guinn, in September of 2001, to serve as Chairman of the Medical Advisory Board to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Although she is Chairman of the Commission’s Medical Advisory Board, all of the views, opinions, and/or recommendations contained herein are solely her own and do not necessarily 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.
All readers are advised that the information herein is intended solely as a general reference source, and to the fullest extent permitted by law, the information is provided “AS IS” without any warranties of any kind, whether express or implied, including without limitation, warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose and non-infringement. No one may rely on the accuracy, integrity, quality or completeness of the general information herein. Accordingly, neither the authors, editors nor anyone else affiliated with this website may be held liable for damages of any kind whatsoever allegedly caused or resulting from any such claimed reliance.