Unanswered questions (cont.)
Posted: Monday December 3, 2007 6:10PM; Updated: Thursday December 6, 2007 11:03AM
"Just hearing that would really make me wonder if he had a very small subdural or epidural [bleeding in the brain] from training in his fight that went unnoticed on his physical exam," says David Watson, a ringside physician with the Nevada Athletic Commission. Subdurals and epidurals can be tough for doctors to diagnose without taking a CAT scan or an MRI, neither of which are standard before fights because of their risks and costs. "You can be completely lucid," Watson says. "It's literally undiagnosable."
But fighters who pride themselves on being tough and don't want to miss out on paydays are reluctant to complain about ailments. Watson says that's the worst thing they can do: "If you have even a slight headache, make sure you tell a doctor. It may be the only warning sign that you're about to die."
On the forums of TXMMA, a local site about the sport, Vasquez's wife, Sandra, described some of her husband's medical travails, including two blood clots. "The blood clot that was removed on Sunday, was not from the initial injury," Sandra wrote. "The second blood clot formed sometime after the first blood clot was removed. The doctor said this is unusual. Sammy now has two injuries that need to heal." Attempts by SI.com to reach Vasquez's family were unsuccessful.
The Harris County Medical Examiner hasn't released the cause of death but said an autopsy is underway. The results, however, won't be ready for months.
According to Bill Kuntz, executive director for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, the state is looking closely into Vasquez's death. Kuntz's agency has already checked to see that the fighter and promoter licenses were in order and analyzed the medical care Vasquez received before and during the fight. The state has also gone over video of the event to determine what happened. "From the pre-fight review conducted by the referee to the actions of the physician on duty and the emergency medical technicians, everyone involved with the October 20 card conducted themselves accordingly and adhered to all procedures," said Kuntz in a press statement.
"We want to commend the ringside officials who presided over this event for their professionalism and quick actions. The referee immediately stopped the fight when he saw that Sammy was hurt. The doctors and paramedics worked quickly to give Sammy the medical attention he needed and to get him to the hospital."
On Saturday, the day after Vasquez's death, Texas officially altered its "combative sports" rules. The rules increase the cost of health insurance promoters are required to pick up for seriously injured fighters, covering "medical, surgical and hospital care with a minimum limit of $50,000 for injuries sustained." Promoters will also be required to pay $100,000 (up from $50,000) to a fighter's estate if the fighter dies in competition. If Vasquez was like the majority of MMA athletes out there, he didn't have insurance and collected only a handful of dollars per fight.
For now, there are few answers about the first death in a sanctioned MMA fight. But Sammy Vasquez and the sport deserve some.
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