Fighters need to learn more about concussion risks, study head says

Thu May 5, 2016 9:55am EDT
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By Philip O'Connor

(Reuters) - Fighters need to learn more about the risks of concussion, especially during training, to protect against brain injury, a medic leading a long-term study into head trauma said.

With two professional bouts marred by high-profile head injuries in the past two months, neurologist Dr. Charles Bernick of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, Nevada, said combat sports could never be made completely safe.

But there were clear steps fighters could take to cut down the risks, he told Reuters in an interview.

"Educate yourself on concussion and head injury," Bernick says, when asked for his best advice. "Most cumulative injury comes in training, and sustaining a concussion close to a fight may make a fighter more vulnerable to be knocked out easier.

"It is important to reduce the exposure to head trauma during sparring and training."

Brain trauma made headlines on April 9 with the death of Portuguese mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Joao Carvalho two days after a bout in Dublin.

Days later British middleweight boxer Nick Blackwell retired, having emerged from a coma induced after a title fight against Chris Eubank Jr in March.

Bernick is in the fifth year of the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study (PFBHS). Backed by promoters and governing bodies in MMA and boxing, it tests active and retired fighters to better understand the effects of repetitive head trauma.   Continued...

NFL team helmets are displayed at the NFL Headquarters in New York December 3, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files