Former Olympic boxing champion Audley Harrison has retired from the sport after revealing that he is suffering the effects of brain injuries sustained in the ring.
The 43-year-old heavyweight boxer rose to fame in 2000 when he won Olympic gold but a series of punishing blows to the head during 38 professional fights have left him with traumatic brain injuries, mood swings and problems with his sight.
Harrison admitted that “it’s time to stop” after looking at the latest research into concussion and traumatic brain injuries. He said he will need to work hard to reverse health problems caused by repeated blows to his head.
Boxing has long been associated with the risk of brain injury and the longer a boxer’s career, the bigger the risks. 49-year-old Bernard Hopkins, the oldest heavyweight champion in history, was warned last year about his worsening risk of brain injury. Stressing that Hopkins’ age means he is less well placed to recover from brain injury a leading neurosurgeon said, “You can't get away from that fact. Older brains are less robust than young brains”.
So, does that mean that only boxers in the twilight of their careers need worry about sustaining a brain injury? Sadly, this is not the case at all as two other recent stories point out. In March, 23-year-old Charlie Payton suffered bleeding on the brain following a professional fight in Hull and has been advised by doctors to quit the sport.
March also saw the tragic death of 23-year-old Australian fighter Braydon Smith who collapsed 90 minutes after a professional bout in Queensland. His life support machine was switched off two days after the fight. Braydon’s death has prompted the Australian Medical Association to call for the sport to be banned, arguing that the sport could never be made safe.
Headway, the UK brain injury association, believes that all forms of boxing should be banned due to the risk of serious brain injury. In their statement on boxing, Headway point to the brain damage suffered by boxers due to repeated blows to the head.
Audley Harrison’s retirement and the tragic death of Braydon Smith have reminded us about the brain damage risks that all boxers face. The Australian Medical Association may well be right in their assumption that boxing can never really be made safe due to its inherent risks but people involved in organising or officiating boxing fights should keep in mind the dangers of brain injury and stop any fight when it is no longer safe for a boxer to continue.
Slater and Gordon's expert Brain Injury Solicitors truly understand the problems facing people suffering from brain injuries and can provide immediate legal representation and rehabilitation support anywhere in the UK.
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