Scientists computer analyze boxing injuries and death

>At this point in the history of technology, we’re all hooked on computers, even rehabbed Luddites like some of us here at TSS. Being wired has been likened to having a second mind to meld with our first, but with the second mind free of the encumbrances of ego, id and superego, the mischievous holy trinity that likes nothing better than to play havoc with the first.

There are, as we know, advantages and disadvantages to being inextricably linked to a machine, no matter how useful, powerful or elegantly designed that machine may appear, but the computer’s influence, specifically on boxing journalism, which the third estate continues to abandon in droves, cannot be overstated.

But computers have made their presence felt in boxing in other ways as well. Olympic boxing took a serious hit when Roy Jones Jr., fighting Park Si-Hun in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, lost a controversial decision, despite landing 86 punches to Park’s 32. The Korean judges scored the bout 3-2 in favor of their homie, and an investigation into the scoring, completed in 1997, revealed that the judges in question had been wined, dined and whatnot in an apparently successful attempt to influence their decision. To limit the corrupting influence of grape, flesh and capital, the Olympics embraced computerized scoring, albeit with mixed results.

Computers are also in use in almost every major fight we see on the tube nowadays. Punchstat gives an ostensibly accurate count of the number of punches thrown and the number of punches landed, with lots of permutations for delineating power shots, jabs, percentages, and the like. But I lost track a long time ago the number of times I compared my notes on a fight to Punchstat’s conclusions on the same, which happened to be totally out of synch with the bout/reality as I saw it, and for which there was no palatable explanation, other than that boxing, in addition to being a sport, is also a business and a racket.

And now, researchers at West Virginia University, assisted by Punchstat, have developed a computer program which is said to be an objective method of determining when a boxing match should be stopped, according to the AP.

“This approach could provide sufficient data to stop matches that might result in fatalities,” said Drs. Vincent Miele and Julian Bailes of West Virginia University School of Medicine.

Miele and Bailes performed a computer-assisted video analysis to compare three groups of professional boxing matches. Ten bouts leading to the death of a fighter were compared with a “classic” group of 10 highly competitive matches.

The fatal and classic matches were also compared with a group of 4,000 bouts previously scored with Punchstat and the results, unsurprisingly, showed some significant differences between the fatal and average bouts: the number of punches landed per round was higher in fatal matches 26.6 for the survivor versus 22.9 for the fighter who died, compared with 9.4 in the average fight.

No other variables, such as age, weight, boxing experience, record or previous brain injury not to mention the type of punch thrown, or the effect or strength of those punches was fed into the computer for analysis.

“The sport of boxing is often a subject of controversy because the primary strategy is to disable an opponent’s central nervous system,” the researchers wrote. “Although numerous prestigious medical organizations have called for its abolishment, participation in the sport of boxing has reached an all-time high among both men and women, and its elimination is unlikely in the near future.

“Developing a standardized, objective method of determining whether or not a contest should be halted would thus be a paradigm shift that might increase the safety of the sport’s participants.”

The study appears in the February issue of the journal Neurosurgery.