MMA safety Protecting fighters the Nevada way


TORONTO - In the wake of a Canadian Medical Association resolution calling for a ban on mixed martial arts, here is a look at the medical checks for fighters instituted by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

The Nevada commission is considered an industry leader, given the number of boxing and MMA fights it oversees each year.

Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada commission, says he understands why doctors or others may be against combat sports. But he says he is bothered by "intellectual dishonesty" when some critics base their opinions on false information.

Kizer, however, is well aware of the dangers of boxing and mixed martial arts.

"We appreciate that. That's why we treat it so seriously."


To get a licence to fight, athletes must submit evidence of an annual physical, dilated eye examination and bloodwork to test for HIV, hepatitis B and C. Scans — MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and MRA (magnetic resonance angiogram) — are required before fighters make their pro debut and "as needed thereafter."

"Then in different situations, you might require more," said Kizer. "If a fighter gets knocked out, you require a CAT scan. If a fighter is over a certain age, you might require an EKG (heart test) or additional bloodwork or chest X-ray."

Licences have to be renewed annually.


Fighters get a "detailed physical exam" at the weigh-in, the day before their bout. It includes checking blood pressure, pulse, the skin and agility drills. Doctors review the fighters' licensing medical results and question them about recent history. Fighters are checked again the day of the fight.

Kizer said it's rare someone fails a pre-fight physical, because promoters and matchmakers do their due diligence.


The Nevada commission has at least three doctors — "usually four" — at every MMA and boxing fight card. An ambulance is also on standby, "stocked by EMTs (emergency medical technicians) or higher classification." If that ambulance has to leave, another has to be on site before the next fight can proceed.


Fight referees work in tandem with ringside physicians and commission inspectors.

"That's why we use the same referees over and over again," said Kizer. "Because we want our referees to be on a first-name basis with the doctors — and the inspectors."

The referee "is the sole arbiter of the fight," but is in consultation with the doctors. "It's very common to see referees and doctors referees talking inbetween rounds. A doctor might tell the referee to look for this or look for that. Or this guy can continue but have him on a short leash — things like that."



Well done, KIzer.