Blood clots on the brain are rare, but extremely dangerous, injuries which can occur as a result of heavy blows to the head. 2016 has seen at least two combat athletes die as a result of these injuries: Joao Carvalho in MMA and Mike Towell in boxing.
Part of what makes brain bleeds so dangerous is the amount of time it usually takes to detect them. An individual with one of these bleeds may experience a lucid interval (where they feel fine for a prolonged period of time) before suddenly falling unconscious or they may experience headaches which slowly increase in intensity. Often, by the time an individual has fallen unconscious, or is suffering headaches which are painful enough to seek medical attention, the bleeding on their brain is so great that they may have already began to suffer brain tissue damage. By this time it may also be too late to perform life-saving surgery.
The Infrascanner is a handheld device which can be used to detect bleeding on the brain in just two minutes. The makers of the device argue that the machine could be used to detect the injury before obvious symptoms of a brain bleed emerge, giving medical professionals ample time to transport the sufferer to hospital for intracranial surgery.
The California State Athletic Commission has purchased three of these units, and at least one will be on hand for Saturday’s UFC on FOX 22: VanZant vs. Waterson event in Sacramento.
An Infrascanner will also be available this Friday at Dublin’s 3Arena, site of the co-promoted Bellator 169 and BAMMA 27 event.
Code Blue, an event medical support provider, will be responsible for fighter safety at the show.
“We have engaged with the supplier of this device and arranged for a trained provider to attend 3Arena to conduct scans of all competitors post-fight,” said Code Blue in a statement provided by Safe MMA, a not-for-profit fighter safety advocacy group.
Safe MMA has been working with Code Blue and the Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAA) to develop protocols for use of the handheld brain scanning device.
“The Infrascanner will not replace mandatory CT scans of KOed fighters, but will act as a ‘Catch All’ facility for fighters who don’t automatically fit the IMMAA criteria for scanning,” said Safe MMA in a statement.
In addition to every fighter receiving an on-site brain scan after their fight, fighters will also receive CT scans at a hospital if they meet any of the following criteria:
- Fighter is KO’d.
- Fighter receives large amount of head shots.
- Cage side doctor believes CT scan is required.
- Fighter clears post fight check but internal bleed is discovered by the Infrascanner.
It was in Dublin this April that Joao Carvalho suffered a supdural hematoma; a bleed beneath the outermost layer of the brain. Carvalho likely received the injury during his bout with Charlie Ward, a fight he lost via TKO (punches).
After the referee called an end to the contest Carvalho exited the cage under his own strength, despite having a brain hemorrhage. According to his teammates Carvalho’s didn’t report feeling unwell until approximately 20 minutes after the fight.
After Carvalho, and those around him, had realized he was injured he was rushed to Dublin’s Beaumont Hospital, where surgery was performed. Sadly, it was too late and 48 hours later Carvalho passed away as a result of his injury.
Code Blue, Safe MMA, and the IMMAA hope that the protocol in place for this weekend’s event means any fighter who suffers a brain bleed is both diagnosed and operated on as soon as possible.