BBBofC testing handheld scanners which could save lives
By Sky News
Last Updated: 18/10/16 2:25pm
Boxing authorities are evaluating a new handheld brain scanner that could be used by ringside doctors, Sky News understands.
The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) is closely monitoring trials of the device being carried out by the London Air Ambulance, according to sources.
The scanner can detect brain bleeds with an accuracy of 90 per cent, often before any symptoms such as headaches or confusion become apparent.
The authorities are under pressure to take every possible measure to improve safety following the death last month of Mike Towell.
Mike Towell dies
Scottish boxer Mike Towell has died in hospital after he was seriously injured in a bout
The Scottish boxer collapsed after his bout with Dale Evans was stopped in the fifth round. He had a catastrophic bleed in his brain.
Dr Maurice Mann, a ringside medic for amateur and professional fights, said the scanner should be widely used.
He told Sky News: "Time is of the essence. People can have an 'insult' [injury] to the brain, but it is the delay and the longer the bleeding goes on where the damage is done.
"So the quicker we can get them to a neurosurgical unit the better. Boxing is a sport where there is an element of risk and any scientific means of lowering that risk is important."
The Infrascanner shines a laser beam 3.5cm into the head. If the light passes through blood, less of it is reflected back to a detector. It takes just three minutes to hold the scanner at eight points around the scalp.
Doctors currently assess boxers for brain damage by checking their pupils respond to a bright light and asking a series of questions to see whether they are confused.
But not all brain bleeds cause immediate symptoms and doctors may have to reassess boxers several times over an hour or more, potentially wasting valuable time.
Nick Blackwell collapsed with a bleed on his brain during his British middleweight title fight with Chris Eubank junior.
Doctors saved his life by drilling a hole in his skull to relieve the pressure from the build-up of blood.
He believes he got the injury while sparring in the run-up to the fight. Had the scanner been used before he even got in the ring, he may well still be boxing.
"Us fighters are our own worst enemies," he said. "We think it's just a headache, there's nothing going on, so we still go in [the ring].
"But if you have a scanner go across your brain and you realise what is going on inside, you aren't going to fight. This could be massive. It will save people's lives."
The scanner is already carried by the US Marine Corps as part of their battlefield trauma kits. And the Russian boxing team used it at the Rio Olympics.
The BBBofC did not respond to requests for a statement. If it does approve the scanner for routine use in amateur and professional fights in the UK there will be pressure to introduce it in other sports with a concussion risk, such as rugby.