How to avoid the deadly blow in boxing

2014-11-16 15:00

How well-equipped are ringside medical officers?

In the wake of the recent death of female boxer Phindile Mwelase, City Press engaged medical experts on the kinds of emergency life-saving equipment that can possibly prevent ring fatalities.

Following Mwelase’s death three weeks ago after she suffered a brain haemorrhage and slipped into a coma after being knocked out by Liz Butler during their light welterweight bout in Pretoria, an inquest has been instituted.

So horrendous was the outcome of the fight, no-nonsense Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula has decided to launched an inquiry into Mwelase’s death.

The probe is expected to begin soon.

This was after the ringside doctor appointed by Boxing SA was reportedly overheard saying he thought the Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal-born Mwelase was tired when she was knocked out in the sixth round of the scheduled eight-rounder after being caught by a punch on the head.

But this state of affairs has put the spotlight on what emergency equipment is provided during fights to avoid fatalities such as Mwelase’s.

There is a view that something drastic should have been done by the presiding doctor at ringside to save Mwelase’s life.

And this brings to mind the question of emergency equipment provided during bouts.

According to Dr John Fleming, a neurologist at Milpark Hospital in Joburg and a World Boxing Association medical panellist, a fight supervisor must ensure there is sufficient medical equipment to assist boxers in the event of injuries.

He said: “A doctor must always ensure he has an airway ventilation operator and a pumping bag.

“There must also be a stretcher at ringside and above all, a fully equipped ambulance parked not far from the ringside to assist the injured.

“There must also be fully trained medical personnel to complement the ambulance.”

A former medical panel of the now defunct SA National Boxing Control Board, Fleming has authored the “punishment index”, a boxing safety regulation manual whereby ringside doctors monitor the amount of beating the fighter absorbs during a fight.

He said there would not be any deaths occurring in the ring if doctors had the necessary tools.

“There are two types of brain injuries as result of boxing – the epidural haemorrhage, which can be minimised; and focal brain contusion, which is very serious.

“This can lead to a coma and ultimately death, which is what might have been the case with Mwelase,” explained Fleming.

“It’s important for doctors to check boxers constantly during fights to ensure they are fine to continue boxing.”

Cricket SA medical team member Dr Shuaib Manjra said it is imperative for doctors to have all the “necessary tools” in the kitbag whenever they are in charge during boxing matches.

He said an automated external defibrillator, an energy resuscitation equipment bag and resuscitation drugs are crucial.

“You need a doctor who can diagnose and resuscitate a severely injured athlete,” said Manjra.

The equipment that ringside doctors need

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