Older box­ers should quit to save bat­tered brains

CityPress - - Sport - PULE MOKHINE pmokhine@city­press.co.za graphic). see box and

Box­ing is prob­a­bly one of the only sports in which there is no “ap­pro­pri­ate” age for a pro­fes­sional to re­tire.

Most pugilists con­tinue their ca­reers way be­yond the age of 40 and are gen­er­ally forced out of the square jun­gle by se­ri­ous in­juries.

Med­i­cal ex­perts who spoke to City Press this week pro­vided some in­sight into the life­span of a prize fighter – and the con­sen­sus is that 35 is the right age to call it quits.

How­ever, a close look at lo­cal box­ing records clearly shows that many box­ers dis­re­gard this sug­gested “re­tire­ment” age and con­tinue to ex­pose them­selves to se­ri­ous in­juries (

Box­ing SA (BSA) ap­proval and sanc­tion­ing com­mit­tee head Peter Ngatane said the Box­ing Act stip­u­lated that fight­ers should con­sider re­tire­ment at 35.

“But the law stip­u­lates that if the boxer is fit enough to con­tinue box­ing, it is man­dated by the law that he must un­dergo a neu­ro­log­i­cal as­sess­ment, in­clud­ing a CT scan,” he said.

Ngatane also serves on the World Box­ing Coun­cil’s med­i­cal panel.

He said if a fighter was older than the age limit and no longer per­form­ing well in the ring, the BSA could still rec­om­mend, through a med­i­cal com­mit­tee, that the boxer’s li­cence be sus­pended.

Ac­cord­ing to Ngatane, the brain was the most sen­si­tive part of the body and of­ten ex­posed to in­jury. The so­lar plexus was another area that was sus­cep­ti­ble to in­juries, he added.

“If box­ers do not de­fend them­selves prop­erly, they are then ex­posed to se­ri­ous in­juries in the ring. If they con­tinue fight­ing be­yond 35, then these in­juries can be­come a prob­lem later in life,” he said.

But Ngatane said noth­ing could be done to stop in­di­vid­u­als from box­ing, as their con­sti­tu­tional rights needed to be con­sid­ered.

Cricket SA med­i­cal team mem­ber Dr Shuaib Man­jra said there should be clear guide­lines on when fight­ers should hang up their gloves.

“In box­ing, un­like other sports codes, you in­duce con­cus­sion by land­ing blows on the head. This is dan­ger­ous, and fight­ers must re­tire timeously,” said Man­jra.

He iden­ti­fied the jaws, eyes and head as the most sen­si­tive parts of the body, of­ten ex­posed to in­jury dur­ing bouts.

Dr John Flem­ing, a neu­rol­o­gist at Mil­park Hos­pi­tal and a World Box­ing As­so­ci­a­tion med­i­cal pan­el­list, said: “The law says 35 is the right age to stop box­ing. It’s a pity that some box­ers con­tinue way over that age limit.

“They risk sus­tain­ing se­ri­ous brain in­juries as a re­sult of the head blows they ab­sorb.”

Flem­ing has au­thored a pun­ish­ment in­dex, which is a box­ing safety reg­u­la­tion man­ual in which ring­side doc­tors can mon­i­tor the num­ber of blows a fighter can ab­sorb dur­ing a fight.

He has cau­tioned fight­ers to al­ways pro­tect them­selves from be­ing hit on the head.

brain fa­cial bones

head-butting

PHOTO: REG CALDE­COTT / GALLO IM­AGES

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