Any fight fan with at least a portion of a conscience sometimes ponders the damage incurred by pugilists as they do their thing in the ring.
We saw an example of a horrific amount of abuse taken by a brave warrior, heavyweight Shannon Briggs, when he ate hundreds of power shots against Vitali Klitschko on October 16 in Hamburg, Germany.
As one watched the New York native bravely suffer at the hands of the WBC champion Klitschko, as we heard the announcer refer too him as almost too brave, we wondered why the man was subjecting himself to the abuse. And, we asked ourselves, why didnt a ring physician in attendance, if the referee, or the Briggs corner or the man himself was unwilling to pull the plug, counsel the ref to stop the fight?
That query hasnt been answered to anyones approval. But one can hope that the Briggs situation at least caused fight game principals in the States, if not the world over, to ask themselves what they would have done if they were faced with the same choice.
Dr. Dominic Colletta, an emergency medicine physician at Cape Regional Medical in Cape May County, NJ, is the president of the American Association of Professional Ringside Physicians. He told TSS he didnt see the Klitschko-Briggs mismatch, but agrees that it is of paramount importance that ring docs are aware of proper methods and strategies, so the short and long-term safety of the fighters is the primary objective in the minds of oversight organizations.
The AAPRP is conducting a conference, which runs from Nov. 4-6 in Orlando, Florida, and the central theme will be “The Brain and Neck in Boxing and Related Sports. Colletta fleshed out the AAPRPs aims, and goals, and touched on their mission in connection to the punishment Briggs was subjected to.
The whole impetus behind the organization is trying to educate physicians around the world as to proper ringside medical procedures, he said. All US commissions dont allow the doctor to stop the fight unless the ref calls the doctor into the ring, so its key that refs understand when to stop the fight. The doctor cant just walk into the ring in the middle of the round and wave the towel.
Should a ringside physician be allowed to halt a bout, I wondered.
I think they should be able to call time out and make a recommendation to the referee, said Colletta, who will welcome head injury specialist Dr. Robert Cantu, who has been working with the NFL to get a handle on concussions, to the conference. The refs are usually pretty good when a fight has to be stopped. Ive never known a ref to go over a doctors head and reject his opinion.
Colletta told TSS how and why he entered the ring doc field. It was in 1988, he said. I love sports in general, and I lived outside of Atlantic City. I was aware that many world championship fights were coming to Atlantic City, so I contacted the New Jersey Commission to see if I could work ringside. Everything went from there.
Colletta said a panel, which will include Christy Martin, ex heavyweight champion Pinklon Thomas and possibly trainer Buddy McGirt, the former welterweight champion, will give insights into how boxers and trainers view head and orthopedic injuries.
I asked Colletta if he sees progress being made in the safety department.
We are definitely making progress in terms of the medical aspects of the sport, but we need to progress in how its regulated. Without a national oversight body, states can make their own regulations. A fighter who gets knocked out can be denied in one state, but can slip into another and fight. Thats our biggest frustration, but as far as knowledge thats getting out there. We work closely with the Association of Boxing Commissions.
Colletta made sure to single out Jack Hirsch, the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, for his interest and leadership in this realm. Jack has been a big proponent of boxing safety, Colletta said. He sits on the board of our organization because of his interest in the subject, and his ability to help us access the press.
The conference, which will be held at the Omni Resorts Championsgate, is open to physicians, and others involved in fightsports, including members of state commissions.