There is no more terrifying two words in combat sports than ‘brain bleed’. Whenever a fighter slips into a coma and dies it seems as though the phrase ‘suffered a brain bleed in the ring’ is never far behind. For years, the condition was incredibly difficult to detect, with fighters often exiting the arena under their own power and conversing normally with ringside physicians before slipping into a coma from which they never recover.
Fortunately, in recent years more technology has made its way into combat sports to detect potential brain bleeds in their early stages, when they can still be more easily treated. Back in 2016, Bloody Elbow highlighted the growing popularity of ring/cage-side scanning devices that could aid in saving lives.
“The unit actually works on a very simple method,” said Roy Bachrach, a former paramedic and current Vice President of Business Development for InfraScan, the makers of Infrascanner 2000.
The device beams near-infrared light into the brain and then measures how much of that light is absorbed. Parts of the brain which are bleeding will absorb more than parts which are not.
“The brain by definition is a symmetrical unit so the right side equals the left side, it’s not completely symmetrical but the components we’re looking for are symmetrical,” said Bachrach. “What we’re doing is comparing the left side of the brain to the right side of the brain, in the same location, and checking for a difference.”
UFC headliner Vicente Luque suspended 1 year for brain hemorrhage
It’s unclear if that technology was in use by the NSAC last year when Vicente Luque was on the receiving end of the first knockout loss of his career—at the hands of Geoff Neal at UFC on ESPN: Santos vs. Hill—however, shortly after the bout Luque was diagnosed with a brain bleed and placed under suspension, pending a doctor’s clearance.
While no reason was announced at the time, Luque’s suspension is likely the reason that his upcoming fight against Rafael Dos Anjos had to be rescheduled from its planned July 15th fight date. MMA Junkie reports that Luque was only cleared to return to competition on Tuesday, July 25th, during the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s monthly meeting.
“He suffered a brain bleed (a year ago),” NAC executive director Jeff Mullen told Junkie. “He had a suspension of one year. He had to bring before the commission clearance from a neurosurgeon and a neurologist independently who recommended he be licensed. We have that material. … I have faith in our doctors.”
Luque says he was cleared to fight in February
For his part, in an interview back in May, Luque gave vague details of his absence from the UFC, saying that he had only been suspended for 6 months following his last bout—although he did not note the reason—and had been cleared to return as soon as February, but that the commission wanted him to wait a full year before fighting again.
“I’m not 100 percent sure why it moved,” Luque said. “But I believe part of it was kind of the commission wanted me to get some more exams and get cleared since my last fight because I got suspended six months. I was cleared to fight in February but still they wanted some more exams. (We’re) just making sure I’m 100 percent. I do feel 100 percent, so I’m sure that everything is going to be good. They wanted to wait maybe a year after my last fight.”
Hopefully Luque’s return to competition goes without incident. It’s terrifying to think of a fighter stepping back into the cage after suffering an injury like that one, but so often in these cases the problem is that the injury goes untreated up until the fighter shows severe physical symptoms, at which point chances of recovery grow much more slim. It may just be that improvements in medical technology and a fair amount of caution have left Luque free to compete again.
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