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MRI Saves MMA Fighter From Possible Death

April 14, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Neuroradiology
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Mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters complained that the Ontario Athletic Commission’s medical requirements were too strict—until a mandated prefight MRI revealed that American welterweight Brian Foster had a brain hemorrhage.

Foster reported no symptoms from the hemorrhage. On Tuesday, he withdrew from the Ultimate Fighting Championships-sanctioned bout, which had been scheduled for April 30 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Another MRI, scheduled for six weeks after the first, will show whether the leaking blood vessel heals.

The Ontario commission requires fighters from outside the province to have an MRI or CT scan within 60 days before an event, as well as an ECG and an eye exam. Within 30 days, it requires HIV and hepatitis B and C tests. Fighters have to pay for the tests themselves.

Rules for MMA fighters (and boxers) vary by state or other regulatory jurisdiction. Some regulatory bodies require an MRI or CT scan only when granting or renewing a fighter’s license, which may happen annually or every few years. Ontario’s rules are unusually strict.

Foster’s coach, Marc Fiore of Granite City, Illinois, told The Canadian Press:

I’m not going to lie; I was one of the guys that was bitching and complaining about the MRI [requirement]. It’s more money out of a fighter’s pocket that he had to pay for. We already had one. In a lot of states, a lot of commissions, five years, six years your MRI is good. Ontario does things different.

Foster is 27 and has three children. “He’s like a son to me,” Fiore said. “I’m glad we got the MRI, and the first thing now is his health.”

Foster’s scheduled opponent, Sean Pierson of Toronto, asked his Twitter followers to keep Foster in their thoughts and prayers. In an interview, he said the incident showed that the tests were justified: “I’m glad that we had to get these MRIs so close to the fight.”

MMA pits two fighters against each other in a ring. They wear gloves similar to boxing gloves and use punches, kicks, and other techniques from boxing, martial arts, and wrestling. It’s a real competition, not scripted athletic theater like professional wrestling.

The exertion accompanying an MMA bout, as well as blows to the head and neck, could easily have turned Foster’s small hemorrhage into a potentially fatal stroke.

Said Fiore, Foster’s coach:

I’m going to be a wreck for six weeks. Just to see what that MRI says in six weeks. I’m not waiting to see if he can fight or not. I’m waiting to see if he’s going to be healthy.

Related seminar: Neuro & Musculoskeletal Imaging


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