Sen. John McCain, along with physicians and professional fighters, discussed the importance of the ongoing study of fighters’ brain health and announced a new Nevada State Athletic Commission fighter safety regulation today on Capitol Hill.
Charles Bernick, M.D., M.P.H., associate medical director of Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, reported that the Nevada State Athletic Commission will require all fighters in Nevada to partake in regular brain health testing, making it the first sport to track brain fitness over an athlete’s career. All fighters in Nevada will be assessed using the C3 app, which is the tool used in the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study and developed by Cleveland Clinic.
“We’re extremely pleased by the Commission’s decision to require regular brain health testing using the C3 app in Nevada, which was a decision influenced largely by data collected from the fighters brain health study,” Dr. Bernick said. “The continued support from Bellator, Premier Boxing Champions and Spike is essential in propelling the study and fighter safety, and we are appreciative of their and contribution and presence at today’s event.”
Established in 2011 with nearly 600 active and retired athletes enrolled, the study is focused on developing methods to detect the earliest and most subtle signs of brain injury in athletes exposed to head trauma, as well as determining which individuals may be more likely to develop chronic neurological disorders. Participation is voluntary, and fighters in the study receive free, ongoing assessments of their brain health and function, including MRI scans. Individual tests will be repeated annually for a minimum of four years.
“As a former boxer and lifelong fan, I understand the critical need to improve research into the effects of contact sports on brain health and fighter safety,” said Sen. McCain. “I appreciate the ongoing efforts of Cleveland Clinic and top boxing and mixed martial-arts organizations to complete these innovative studies so we can ensure the long-term health of these great athletes.”
UFC Chief Operating Officer Ike Lawrence Epstein said, “As proud supporters and contributors to the Professional Fighters’ Brain Study, UFC is thrilled to see the Cleveland Clinic and the Nevada State Athletic Commission taking proactive measures to continue to put athletes’ health and safety front and center. It is our collective responsibility as leaders to be at the forefront and always challenging the status quo in order to elevate the safety standards so critical to the future of combat sports.”
Viacom’s Bellator MMA and the Premier Boxing Champions announced their donation to the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health’s Professional Fighters Study and their continued commitment to fighters’ safety.
Several fighters attended the announcement to discuss the long-range impact the Cleveland Clinic study will have on their sport:
- Larry Holmes, former heavyweight champion: “The sport of boxing has given me so much – and I cherished all the amazing fighters I’ve trained with, sparred with, and gone to battle with in my 29 years as a pro fighter,” Holmes said. “But now I’d like to show my support for an incredible group, The Cleveland Clinic that is making sure others have the same opportunity to have a long and prosperous career as I did. And most importantly, remain safe and healthy.”
- Herschel Walker, former NFL player and former pro fighter: “I’ve been both a professional football player and MMA fighter – and brain health in combative sports is an issue that must be addressed for the safety of these great athletes. I truly applaud the efforts of the Cleveland Clinic and the support from Bellator and all the other fight leagues who are tackling this issue head on.”
- Phil Davis, former All-American wrestler at Penn State and Bellator MMA fighter: “I’m proud to be on Capitol Hill today representing my fellow MMA fighters in supporting this vital research that will help educate us and hopefully keep us safe long-term.”
- Austin Trout, Premier Boxing Champions junior middleweight top contender: “I’m fighting for a world title in a few weeks – but today I’d like to show my support a true undisputed champion – The Cleveland Clinic – and the crucial work they do in researching brain health for us fighters. I’m hoping to be champion for a long time – and this research will go a long way in helping me do so.”
- Paulie Malignaggi, former Premier Boxing Champions welterweight champion and television commentator: “For 15 years, I’ve fought the best and have always left everything I have in the ring. It’s great to know that in my corner is the Cleveland Clinic with the world’s best medical researchers working to make fighters safer.”
Bellator MMA president Scott Coker and Spike President Kevin Kay also spoke about their commitment to this important study.
“Fighter safety is a top priority for Bellator and we applaud the Cleveland Clinic in their efforts that will have a positive long-range effect on the health of our fighters and on the future of our sport,” Coker said.
Kay added, “Spike recently launched a Fighters First campaign that speaks to our commitment to supporting these great athletes inside and outside the ring. Fighters lay it all on the line in the ring or cage – and we owe to them and their health to fund the important work of the Cleveland Clinic.”
The entire press conference can be viewed here.