THE BLOG

Michael Watson Is Inspirational, So Are Those Who Have Worked With Him

21/02/2017 12:13

It is deeply upsetting that this blog has been written with the name Michael Watson in the news once again. The intention here is not to make reference to this recent instance but pay tribute to him and those who have worked with him.

Life moves on. At least it does for some and sport has a habit of moving on pretty quickly. The headline fights are coming with Haye versus Bellew and Joshua versus Klitschko dominating the headlines and the coverage will only increase as the fights draw nearer. With so many quality fighters from the UK in the melting pot, this may be regarded as a golden age for British boxing.

Little time has elapsed since the names of Nick Blackwell and Eduard Gutkneckt were in open discussion. Both fighters were left in comas and the concern for them was very real. Their names no longer feature in the headlines but their situations are very, very real indeed. Boxing has been here before many times. The name of Michael Watson has stayed in the public eye rather longer than some but for every Michael Watson there are others who, it could be argued, simply get forgotten about.

Details on the well-being of Nick Blackwell and Eduard Gutkneckt are shrouded in secrecy and that is entirely correct. This is a medical matter and the principles of confidentiality, even in the age of social media, must be maintained. Recoveries tend to be slow and this blog intends to highlight the importance of good quality medical care in supporting these fighters at the time they need it most.

Trauma medicine sometimes refers to the "golden hour" although the "platinum ten minutes" has been suggested by some as an alternative. Conjecture exists as to whether a time period needs to be stated but the bottom line is this, when a patient's life is on the line speed is absolutely crucial. In previous blogs I have highlighted the need for ringside medical care. The boxer needs to be assessed and managed quickly by the medical team and transferred at speed to the most appropriate hospital. A CT scan of the brain will be needed and neurosurgery remains a distinct possibility. A prolonged stay in Intensive Care is also inevitable. Recovery will depend on how badly, if at all, the brain has been damaged. Sadly, recovery is far from guaranteed.

The journey Michael Watson has been on is little short of inspirational and he himself deserves praise for his tenacity and determination. He himself, one suspects, will be the first to admit that his progress is also a tribute to the health professionals who have worked with him over the years. A 2012 documentary on him did an outstanding job of showing the progress he made from the situation he was in post coma to a man who completed the London marathon. The entire medical team are invariably forgotten but are crucial in the rehabilitation process.

Parallels can be drawn between boxers and soldiers who have returned injured from combat tours abroad. Both tend to be fit young people whose brain and/or bodies have been affected by injury. Particularly around Remembrance Sunday, footage of the work done by professions such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy in support of the patients get shown. This is a slow process and the patience and dedication shown by patient and professional is admirable.

Catastrophic head injuries suffered by boxers are rare but they are a reality. Their occurrence brings headlines and the inevitable calls for banishment. These diminish over time but the consequences do not for those affected and their families. It is important firstly that the sport recognises its duty of care in the short and long term but it is also important that we (the general public) recognise the outstanding work undertaken by healthcare professionals in working with these boxers and rehabilitating them back to as good a quality of life as can be achieved.

At a time when health services are under scrutiny, good news stories are hard to come by not least because they do not sell newspapers. Michael Watson should perhaps not be described as a good news story as he is still living with the consequences of his injury but what he is a positive story and a story of hard work and patience. The health service needs people who have the skills to work with patients like him and we need to make careers in healthcare rewarding.

Michael Watson is an inspiration, but he could not have done it by himself. Everyone connected with boxing hopes that Nick Blackwell and Eduard Gutkneckt can recover too. We wish them well.

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