Time for MMA to take competitor health seriously

Inquest evidence is tragic

BY Paul Collins 09:54 Friday 9 February 2018, 9:54 9 Feb 2018

MMA Fighters in action

Few things up front. I'm not a fan of mixed martial arts. This is not clickbait. I don't believe sports should be banned if there is due care taken of competitors.

I don't believe in writing opinion pieces criticising for the sake of it in the hope that my social media following will grow or that my remarks will lead me to being invited as a guest on live tv or radio shows in order to boost my profile.

That being said the tragic details of the last minutes and hours of Joao Carvalho's life should act as a defining moment in how MMA is run.

MMA or UFC is a perfect example of how a sport can grow in the digital world and become mainstream.

Website owners will tell you anything that mentions MMA, UFC or Conor McGregor is great for page impressions and sparking online arguments for and against.

This is not aimed at being one of those articles.

The inquest into the death of mixed martial arts fighter Joao Carvalho in Dublin is not only incredibly sad but it should never happen again.

The Coroner returned a verdict of misadventure and recommended the endorsement of a national governing body for MMA.

It also recommended that all medical partners engage nationally qualified paramedics and in the short-term MMA should adopt safety standards used in professional boxing.

The cause of death was acute subdural hemorrhage due to blunt force trauma to the head, with aspiration of gastric contents as a contributory factor.

The 28-year-old Portuguese man died at Beaumont Hospital on 11 April 2016, two days after a fight at the National Stadium.

The inquest first heard from Mr Carvalho's brother, Alexandre, who said he saw doctors turn off the life-support machine.

State Pathologist Marie Cassidy said that Mr Carvalho died as a result of bleeding inside the skull caused by head injuries.

Referee Marius Domasat said Joao was conscious throughout the bout and afterwards looked tired and disappointed, but well.

He said given the chance he would not change the way he refereed the fight.

The inquest heard how Joao Carvalho had walked out of the octagon in the National Stadium after his fight.

A garda witness said video evidence showed Mr Carvalho had received 41 blows to the head. 41?

Initially, the fighters went into a small medical room at the stadium. A short time later, Mr Carvalho became drowsy and started vomiting.

There was difficulty getting him to a waiting Red Cross ambulance because the narrow hall outside the medical room was blocked with people.

In the ambulance, Mr Carvalho ended up on the floor. It headed initially for Beaumont Hospital, but diverted to the Mater Hospital.

An operation there failed to save his life.

It has since emerged that in advance of the event, the promoter apparantly indicated there was a limited budget for the event and the safety standards required were not possible.

Sorry what? A 28 year old man in the prime of his life is now dead as a result of that call.

This is him. It's a publicity shot courtesy of his team Nobrega MMA.

Minister for Sport Shane Ross has called on Mixed Martial Arts chiefs in Ireland to introduce safety and governance standards.

'It appears to me that MMA leaders here in Ireland are deliberately dragging their feet on the establishment of appropriate governance and safety standards. I call on the Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAA) to do the right thing - take the steps that are required to safeguard your fighters and prevent needless injury and loss of life.'

It's not often that you'd agree with politicians on anything but this has to happen.

Other sports are already looking to deal with concussion and it's long term implications on players and competitors and it's debatable whether they're appropriate enough to safeguard their players.

There was a time when parents would have been accused of mollycoddling their offspring if they kept them away from contact sports. The harm being caused to their long term health must be borne in mind when youngsters are getting involved.

I know what my response would be to the question 'Daddy can I get involved in MMA?'

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