Every year from three to a dozen or more pro boxers worldwide die from injuries sustained in the boxing ring. Almost all are due to blows to the head that lead to subdural hematomas, more commonly known as brain bleeds.
When this happens to a prizefighter, a speedy diagnosis and journey to a nearby hospital are vital.
A new device called an Infrascanner 2000 has been put to use by the California State Athletic Commission to rapidly detect brain bleeds within minutes. It could save lives and is being used now by CSAC at a cost of $15,000 each.
The Infrascanner and other implementations such as drug testing, dehydration issues and scoring fights were discussed by CSAC Executive Director Andy Foster and others during a media day the past weekend. Some eye-opening revelations were unfurled.
Prizefighting, in particular pro boxing, has always been one of the most dangerous sports in the world. In my career as a boxing writer I’ve witnessed firsthand many fighters die from injuries sustained in a prize fight. It’s something you never forget.
It was September 1, 1983, when Pomona’s Alberto “Tweety” Davila met Mexico’s Kiko Bejines for the WBC bantamweight title at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. Davila dominated the muscular Bejines from start to finish. It was a one-sided fight that saw Mexico’s Bejines try to fight on until the finish. The fighter was knocked out in the 12th round and carried out on a stretcher. He died three days later. That was the first time I witnessed a pro boxer die from injuries. Many more would follow.
These were two 118-pound fighters, not massive heavyweights. Experience covering prizefights showed me that it’s usually the smaller weights that suffer the head trauma.
A major reason, pointed out by CSAC lead man Foster, can be severe dehydration that fighters endure to make weight before a fight.
“I think dehydrations is the most important factor in sports,” Foster said on Saturday before the title fight between Tim Bradley and Jessie Vargas at the StubHub Center.
Foster added that dehydration causes multiple problems such as decreased kidney function, and decreased heart and cardiovascular function. It also causes problems with the eyes and can lead to increased risk of brain bleeds due to lack of water.
That’s where the Infrascanner comes in.
The device to measure the danger level of brain injury was developed in the 1990s and used by the U.S. Military to detect trauma in soldiers or Marines who were injured from explosions from bombs and booby traps. It was found to have an 88 percent success rate on battlegrounds in Afghanistan and takes a few minutes to scan a person’s head with infrared light. A meter shows the danger level. It’s roughly the size of an electric shaver and runs on double A batteries.
Before the Infrascanner, soldiers and Marines were sent to the hospital to be evaluated with a CT scan. It was time consuming. Some injuries must be treated more quickly. The Infrascanner shaved time. It will do the same for boxers who might be suffering a brain bleed.
Foster said CSAC plans to buy more. California stages more boxing and MMA events annually than any other state in the country. Sometimes four to six events take place on the same day. The Infrascanner made its debut on Saturday at the StubHub.
“This is the most progressive state in the country and in the world,” said referee and judge Jack Reiss.
CSAC plans another media day in the future. It was the first time in my many decades that a media day of this sort was held. Look forward to the next one.