Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Brain injury severe after boxer's post-fight treatment delayed

Physical punishment isn't a surprise or an obstacle for members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but some injuries can take players out of the game. Coaches, trainers and team doctors are expected to recognize serious injuries like concussions and respond appropriately, not for the game's benefit but for the player's health.

A 32-year-old professional boxer lost a match by decision in November. The father of three suffered a broken hand and upper jaw. State athletic commission doctors responded to the boxer's headache complaint by giving him a numbers-reading quiz, a neurological test that the athlete passed.

The doctors advised the boxer to visit a doctor within a few days and left, except for an inspector required to get a urine sample. When the sample showed blood, the inspector urged the boxer to get to a hospital. More than two hours passed between the time the fight ended and a hospital confirmed the boxer's brain was bleeding.

Doctors finished surgery meant to alleviate pressure from the man's brain. The initial missed diagnosis and delays during and after the trip to the hospital ate up valuable time. The brain trauma was severe.

The boxer had suffered multiple strokes and was comatose for weeks. He is now in a rehab facility, unable to speak or walk. Doctors don't know if the boxer's condition will improve.

The man's family is preparing to file a $100 million claim against the state and athletic commission doctors for negligence. Immunity laws may protect the state from claims of medical malpractice against its employees, the athletic commission doctors.

Even with expectations of injuries, amateur and professional athletes have a right to the same quality health care as non-athletes. Doctors who downplay or ignore brain injury symptoms put patients' lives at risk. The longer brain bleeding goes undetected, the greater the chance a patient will suffer permanent injuries or die.

Source: ESPN New York, "Injured boxer's family plans lawsuit" William Weinbaum and John Barr, Feb. 22, 2014

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