When Timothy Bradley Jr. spoke at length, prior to his recent fight with Juan Manuel Marquez, about the prolonged post-concussion syndromes he had suffered following his brutal win over Ruslan Provodnikov earlier this year, boxing's medical community applauded. Boxing is, of course, inherently dangerous, and corners, commissions, ringside physicians, promoters, managers and the like are frequently prevailed upon to improve fighter safety. But educational efforts directed at boxers themselves, helping them to understand and feel empowered to talk about the health effects of their chosen profession, are comparatively thin on the ground.
Hence the applause for Bradley's admissions and also the rationale behind a two-hour workshop for fighters that is being jointly sponsored by VADA (the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) and the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas on Friday.
Titled "The Wining Edge in Combat Sports: How to Get It and Maximize Your Health," it is, said the Lou Ruvo Center's Dr. Charles Bernick, "the first attempt that we know of to bring information on health and safety issues directly to those involved in combat sports. While large organizations within various sports do conduct educational presentations to their athletes, this has not existed in boxing. Yet these individuals are among the most exposed to health threats such as head trauma/concussion and rapid weight loss."
Bernick is the lead researcher for the Ruvo Center's Professional Fighters Brain Health Study, which has been chronicled previously by ESPN.com. And, he said, "as we are asking professional fighters to help us understand the long-term consequences of repetitive head trauma by participating in that study, we believe we owe it to them to share the current knowledge regarding reducing risk and promoting brain health. They will likely not get it in any other way."
It's a sentiment echoed by VADA's Dr. Margaret Goodman.
"Every fighter wants that winning edge, but for a fighter to have a safe and successful career, he or she also requires tools that go beyond their skill in the ring or a cage," she said. "These include proper diet and nutrition, and how to safely make weight and avoid dehydration; handling the stress of competition, mental preparation to win and how to recover from a loss; recognizing the signs and symptoms of concussion; and finally, to know they can compete clean and obtain their goal. When I speak to ring physicians, I always tell them to learn something new every fight. Well, too often we forget that protecting the fighters must include imparting our experiences that can better protect them ringside and in training. This is the start of sharing such knowledge, and I'm so honored to be a part of it."
Fighters and trainers interested in attending the event -- and in the process becoming eligible for two free tickets to UFC 167 the following day -- can register at www.keepmemoryalive.org/fight.