Athletes pushing their bodies to extreme measures in order to attain maximum performance is something that has been done for centuries. The sport of Mixed Martial Arts pushes that sentiment one step further. At times approaching death’s door step just to gain the slightest advantage.
Dr. Beau Hightower runs the Sports Medicine Department for Jackson-Wink in Albuquerque, NM. Currently working on his third doctorate, Beau’s combination of knowledge and experience makes him an invaluable asset to the MMA community.
Speaking with Beau we talked about injury prevention for athletes, the weight cutting issue in our sport, and what the future holds for the sport in terms of brain injuries. Must-listen to stuff for anyone involved in the sport.
We also discussed his experience in being a ringside doctor for the UFC and his thoughts on if the Athletic Commissions are doing enough to protect the fighters. While we agreed that it is a tricky situation, there were some serious concerns.
Beau: “…many of these doctors are not familiar with fighting. They really are not that familiar with sports medicine. In fact one of the doctors with the UFC event here was an OBGYN and the other was a plastic surgeon. Their familiarities with the fighters’ injuries and the weight cutting process I don’t think is going to be very high. Particularly from state to state……. I was somewhat appalled by some of the physicals I saw from some of the doctors I worked with. They come out of the cage and their physical kinda looked like ‘Hey are you alright?’ ‘Ya, I’m good!’ ‘Ok. See you later’. Instead of checking vitals and making sure….”
Tim: I just want to clarify. While working as a doctor at a UFC event, two of the other doctors doing physicals, one was a plastic surgeon and one was an OBGYN?
Beau: “uh huh”
Tim: Wouldn’t you consider that to be medically irresponsible?
Beau: “Well, I think some people because I am not a medical doctor, would consider it irresponsible for me to be there as well. That can go both directions I suppose. In their opinion just anybody who is an M.D. that they can get to do it is capable of doing it. That’s not really a specialty that’s going to have a lot of experience with acute injuries. For me I would rather have a medic or a nurse practitioner. Somebody who works in an E.R. who is use to seeing broken bones, is use to seeing contusions, or preferably somebody that works with fighters on a consistent basis.”
Now it is worth noting that Albuquerque event took place in June of 2004. Have things changed in the last three plus years? How was someone unfamiliar with the sport, and potentially the injuries, allowed to make these medical decisions?
After the near-death experience at LFA and fatal death of a fighter in Ireland, it’s time for the commissions to look themselves in the mirror.
If you can’t ensure the safety of the fighters by making sure their health is monitored by the proper doctors, then MMA events are not for you! Fighters health and safety NEEDS to be the top priority. Stop the madness now before it’s too late.