Due to the repetitive blows to the head, boxers are often victims of concussions. In light of the information that is now known, Jeanette Zacarias Zapata may have been the victim of second impact syndrome on Saturday night in the ring of Rogers Court.
It is a rare complication of a concussion. When a person suffers from it, there is a pronounced swelling of the brain.
This happens when an athlete has a second concussion while the first has not yet fully healed. In recent years, several athletes have died from it.
Is that what happened to Zapata? It is possible according to specialist Dave Ellemberg.
“As we know, she was knocked out in May,” said the clinical neuropsychologist. It’s very possible that she was a victim of second impact syndrome.
“The second impact, the one she suffered on Saturday, could have caused significant brain swelling and possible brain bleeding. If she hasn’t had the swelling and bleeding, she has a good chance of being okay with little damage.”
Within seconds of her loss, Zapata was seen convulsing while still standing.
“It’s the electrical activity in the brain that is no longer synchronized normally,” explained Dr. Ellemberg. The motor cortex, which controls the arms and legs, can be affected. This is what is most visible.
“On the other hand, it also affects the functions of speech, vision, hearing. The person loses muscle tone. That’s why Zapata collapsed.”
Having the right tools
After her defeat in May, Zapata underwent medical tests in Mexico. She had passed two brain “scans” which revealed no abnormalities.
Then, when she agreed to come and fight with Marie-Pier Houle, the Mexican had to get other “scans” of her brain before sending them to the Régie in Quebec. Again, everything was in order.
Upon her arrival in Montreal, the 18-year-old athlete successfully passed all the medical tests required by the Régie before entering the ring.
“You have to have the right tools to have a good brain assessment,” said Ellemberg. After her duel in May, she did some tests and she was correct according to their exams.
“According to a recently published study, one in four athletes who get the green light from doctors is not ready to return to the game. The brain is not yet recovered.”
In an ideal world, Dr. Ellemberg would like to see more extensive CT scans in order to get a true picture of the brains of boxers.
“Conventional imaging tests don’t have the sensitivity to identify the deficits and damage associated with concussion,” he said. With further testing, you can see the different regions of the brain that are connected.”
Caution is in order
The next few days will be decisive for Zapata according to the president of the Quebec Association of Sports and Exercise Physicians, Dr Luc de Garie.
“It can go both ways. Usually, victims of trauma like this have permanent effects in some way. It is rare for them to regain completely normal brain function, ”he stressed.
It all depends on the areas of the brain that have been affected.
“All control and command centers are different from place to place. The vision is more to the rear, the floor is more to the left. We will know more about the after-effects in the weeks and months to come, ”Dr de Garie insisted.