Football – it’s time to face the facts head on

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By Sam Marston and Michael Pisinger

In recent years, there's been a lot of research surrounding the topic of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), or colloquially known as ‘punch drunk syndrome’ a connotation referencing its prevalence in boxing. Most often we hear the term linked to sports known for their brutality; boxing, UFC, MMA, rugby, american football... the list goes on. However, people rarely associate brain injury with football, but that is all about to change. The University of Boston, known for its research into the topic, has set up a ‘brain bank’ where deceased ex-footballers can volunteer to send their brains post-mortem. So far the university have received 425 brains from autopsy, 270 of them showed evidence of CTE. The general concensus seems to be that such injury is caused by repetitive heading of the ball, not the occasional concussion sustained by accident.


    When one thinks about injuries in football, CTE is perhaps fairly far down on the list. The first things that spring to mind are Wayne Rooney and David Beckham, both of whom suffered metatarsal fractures. Unfortunately Wayne recovered in time for the World Cup only to be red-carded in the quarter-final for stamping on the foot of Portugal’s Ricardo Carvalo. A bulldog with a broken foot, vindictively trying to level the playing field. Nevertheless, even a bulldog should be made informed when his profession comes prepackaged with major risks of brain damage. Unlike a fractured metatarsal or a torn ACL, CTE doesn’t share the same optimistic prognosis. CTE is not only associated with bleak diagnoses such as dementia, Alzheimers and Parkinsons, but also with other conditions of deteriorated mental well-being such as depression. Something all long-term players should be made aware of.


    Luckily, there are ways we can prevent CTE from occurring. For one, we can educate. Not just athletes, but more importantly children and their parents. What they need to know is that repetitive head trauma, not just acute only, causes damage to neurons. Once they know this vital information, then it will be easier to implement changes preventing CTE. Another way we can prevent this disorder is by improving equipment. This can be achieved in a variety ways. Firstly, add helmets which would absorb some shock from the ball, and therefore reduce trauma. Secondly, improve the material of the ball. With new technology it may be possible to make the ball behave the same when kicked, but transfer less energy to the player's head. These first two methods may require a bit of financing, but there is another measure which can be taken right now and won't cost anything: change the rules! We advocate that children under the age of 12 should be forbidden from heading the ball in practice, following America’s lead where such laws already exist.

     Now, some may ask "Why should I care whether football is safe or not?" Well, if you care about your health, your family's health or the health of your favorite athletes, then you should be interested in this topic. Moreover, this is a rare example of a preventable disorder. If effective measures are taken, then in the future the incidence of CTE and other neurodegenerative diseases associated with repetitive head trauma will be much lower. Not only will these people be happier, because they suffer from depression, aggression, etc., but they will also save a lot of money in the long run. Healthy people do not require expensive treatment, and prevention is the cheapest ways to deal with diseases. By taking a closer look at heading the ball in football and modifying it to make it safer, we will make everybody happier, and potentially save many lives and a lot of money.

       A few common arguments tend to resurface in opposition to our propositions. Some say that we’re being overly protective. If we emphasize safety too much, that could make the sport boring, and no one would wants this to happen. People may stop watching, and thus there would be no more financial revenue from football games. We don't think that's the case. If you look at racing for example, the safety there has been vastly improved throughout history. Nowadays, it's less common to see terrible accidents, because of new rules and technology that protects the drivers. Are Formula One, NASCAR etc. bankrupt? No! Also, what if heading the ball is a vital part of the sport? Could it still be called ‘football’ if there was an outright ban of heading the ball? Football has been played the same way for years now, so why should we change something that works? Well we added goal-line technology, and so far the backlash has been minimal. Also, if you remove heading the ball, then the word 'football' makes more sense, because you will then have to use your feet more! Lastly, there haven't been many studies focusing on heading the ball in football, so how do we know for certain that heading the ball over a long period of time causes CTE?  Well, this is exactly the reason why we want to discuss this topic: to gain interest that would fuel the creation of new studies which would prove our point: chronic head injury causes CTE!

    It is unclear exactly how many times and with what force it is necessary to head the football before developing CTE. What is clear however, is that such correlation exists. Nobody one wants future generations to be so molly-coddled that outdoor sports are taken off the curriculum altogether, but lay-people need to be aware of the risks. Furthermore, research into what is globally considered the most popular sport must be undertaken so that professionals and amateurs alike be aware the risks of the worlds favourite passtime. This is why we would like you to learn more about this topic on www.protectthepug.org and spread the word, so that we can considerably improve the quality of life of all athletes, amateur or professional, in the world! Nobody wants to become a trembling mess in the future that could be prevented because of a simple step: make football safer, especially for your head!


Bibliography:

https://rd.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00401-017-1680
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK220609/
http://www.soccerconcussion.com/preventing-concussions-in-soccer/
https://www.wired.com/story/brain-trauma-scientists-turn-their-attention-to-soccer/
 

 

Limit Headers in Soccer for Children NOW: Protect Their Developing Brains

By (In alphabetical order):

prof.MUDr.Vladimír Beneš, DrSc.; Mgr. Ondřej Bezdíček, Ph.D; prof. MUDr. Pavel Dundr, Ph.D; MUDr. Petr Dušek, Ph.D; MUDr. Eduard Kuriščák, Ph.D; doc. MUDr. Radoslav Matěj, Ph.D;  Mgr. Tomas Nikolai, PH.D; doc. MUDr. Ing. Jaroslav Plas; prof.MUDr. Evžen Růžička,DrSc.; Candice Smith, A.B., M.Ed; Coach Craig Smith, MUDr. Tomáš Uher, Ph.D.; doc. MUDr. Zdeněk Vilikus, CSc.


The developing brain of a child is made up of delicate neurons that make up a soft, pliable mass that is encased by a skull composed of bone. To protect the brain from external forces, and thus damaging the delicate neuronal architecture, the brain is shielded by brain sheath and a layer of cerebral spinal fluid that acts as a shock absorber to normal activity.  This is why a person can run, jump and perform normal activities without suffering brain injury.  

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However, there are three factors we need to be concerned about when it comes to brain injury: 

1. The layer of cerebral spinal fluid cannot protect the brain from crashing against the skull, once an applied force passes the threshold to induce sub-concussive and concussive trauma.  Thresholds that are typically violated on a playing field or prize fighting ring.  Thresholds that are further reduced when it comes to protecting the developing brain of a child whose skull is also not as thick as an adult's.   

2. Unlike many other cells in the body which are capable of regeneration, brain cells, for the most part, are incapable of self-repair and regeneration.

3. Just as inflammatory agents progressively destroy a joint in arthritis, there is also evidence of certain bio-markers such as tau protein that are produced in response to head trauma.  These agents insidiously ravage the brain slowly, and symptoms of progressive neurological disorders do not appear until years after the trauma occurred.  

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
— Winston Churchill

Renowned doctor and former chairman of the neurology department at Charles University (1936 to 1965), Kamil Henner, was ridiculed by many for postulating that boxing was hazardous to the brain. Since then, research repeatedly proved that he was right. In the United States, boxing was banned in both secondary schools and Universities when it was discovered that blows to the head caused a condition called Dementia Pugilistica - now known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE.  
 

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A Disturbing Truth We Cannot Afford to Ignore

The discovery of CTE in professional American football, college and even high school football players coupled with the materialization of the recent Billion Dollar NFL Concussion Settlement has caused an uproar.  These events have lead to numerous multi-million dollar research studies at leading Universities such as Harvard, Oxford, and the CTE Center at Boston University.  These studies have shown a link between sub-concussive and concussive blows and progressive neurological disorders such as CTE, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's Disease.  This research has led to further discoveries of CTE and other progressive neurological disorders in all contact sports such as hockey, rugby, wrestling, and even soccer. 

These studies have been published by leading scientists in major medical journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Neurology, Jama and Nature. 

Consequently, the basis of these findings are leading to changes in law in contact sports such as American football and soccer.

The results of the research changes the rules

For example, in the United States, these findings have been used to both raise public awareness and push lawmakers to ban heading the ball in Soccer in children less than the age of 10.  From 11-13 years of age, the heading of the ball is legal in practice, but not in competition.   

Are We Willing To Learn From the Mistakes of Others?

  • Given there are no cures to neurological damage and that common sense dictates that the only way to prevent traumatic brain injury (TBI) is by reducing its incidence through prevention...
  • Given that no studies are being pursued here in the Czech Republic that contradict any of these research findings...
  • Given that the most prominent universities in the world who contribute to many of today’s medical discoveries and who have unrivaled access to research funds have come to the conclusion that there are links between head trauma and progressive neurological disorders and thus have taken steps to better protect an unaware and uninformed public by changing laws…
  • ...This all warrants the adoption of similar safety policies to better protect our children here in the Czech Republic. 
     
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A Call to Defend The Welfare of Our Children

Despite the preponderance of evidence, the stakes of our children's welfare, some curiously maintain resistance to change.  Why?  We are not talking about national security.  We are talking about adapting a policy that was soundly implemented in the United States that simply bans heading the ball in small children to prevent TBI and progressive neurological disorders later in life - a policy that was the brainchild of heavily funded research from numerous leading scientists and Universities.  We are talking about eliminating not the game, but simply a practice of ball heading that was introduced 1000's of years ago.  A practice that can smash and affect any part of the brain -  including, ironically, those centers that also control athletic performance. 

When it Comes to Your Child’s Health, Are You Going To Trust Your Doctor or Bureaucrat?

We cannot afford to ignore advances in modern western medicine, advances which have effectively revealed disturbing connections between inconspicuous brain injuries and progressive neurological disorders. We cannot afford to allow a non-medically trained bureaucrat to make important decisions about your child’s welfare - critical decisions that both your child and you the parent have no control in making, but might regret later in life.  


Public Awareness in the Czech Republic Needs to be Raised:

Citizens of the Czech Republic need to be made aware of this situation and given the option - that on the basis of scientific evidence coupled with the lack of research in the Czech Republic - to, at the very least, opt out if they do not want their child exposed to head trauma in contact sports, until we can pass a law to eliminate headers in soccer for children less than the age of 13. 

In light of the evidence from some of the most reputable sources in the world, are we willing to turn a blind eye and gamble with our children's futures as opposed to just modifying current policies to make contact sports like soccer safer?

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No One Will Look Out for Your Child If You Don't! Please Act Now!

Please sign this petition which calls for schools and children's soccer programs to advise parents of the inherent risks of heading the ball in soccer.  We have created this petition to A) not only make it mandatory for schools to adviser parents of the neurological risks, but also to B) enact a law limiting headers in ages 13 or younger, just as the United States has already done. Once we reach 10,000 signatures, we will send this petition to your child’s school and appropriate governmental agencies.

With your support, we can protect our children. Please act now to sign and share this petition. Thank you!

 

References:

Julie M. Stamm, Alexandra P. Bourlas, Christine M. Baugh, Nathan G. Fritts, Daniel H. Daneshvar, Brett M. Martin, Michael D. McClean, Yorghos Tripodis, Robert A. Stern Age of first exposure to football and later-life cognitive impairment in former NFL players Neurology Jan 2015, 10.1212/WNL.0000000000001358; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000001358

Ling, H., Morris, H.R., Neal, J.W. et al., Mixed pathologies including chronic traumatic encephalopathy account for dementia in retired association football (soccer) players. Acta Neuropathol (2017) 133: 337.

McKee AC, Cairns NJ, Dickson DW, Folkerth RD, Keene CD, Litvan I, Perl DP, Stein TD, Vonsattel JP, Stewart W, Tripodis Y, Crary JF, Bieniek KF, Dams-O'Connor K, Alvarez VE, Gordon WA, TBI/CTE group. The first NINDS/NIBIB consensus meeting to define neuropathological criteria for the diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Acta Neuropathol. 2016 Jan;131(1):75-86. Epub 2015 Dec 14 PubMed.

Bieniek KF, Ross OA, Cormier KA, Walton RL, Soto-Ortolaza A, Johnston AE, DeSaro P, Boylan KB, Graff-Radford NR, Wszolek ZK, Rademakers R, Boeve BF, McKee AC, Dickson DW. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy pathology in a neurodegenerative disorders brain bank. Acta Neuropathol. 2015 Dec;130(6):877-89. Epub 2015 Oct 30 PubMed.

Ling H, Holton JL, Shaw K, Davey K, Lashley T, Revesz T. Histological evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in a large series of neurodegenerative diseases. Acta Neuropathol. 2015 Dec;130(6):891-3. Epub 2015 Oct 24 PubMed.

Noy S, Krawitz S, Del Bigio MR. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy-Like Abnormalities in a Routine Neuropathology Service. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2016 Nov 4; PubMed.

Crane PK, Gibbons LE, Dams-O'Connor K, Trittschuh E, Leverenz JB, Keene CD, Sonnen J, Montine TJ, Bennett DA, Leurgans S, Schneider JA, Larson EB. Association of Traumatic Brain Injury With Late-Life Neurodegenerative Conditions and Neuropathologic Findings. JAMA Neurol. 2016 Sep 1;73(9):1062-9. PubMed.

 

Special Thanks To:

Czech Language Council Chapter at Charles University

PhDr. Šárka Blažková Sršňová, Ph.D.

PhDr. Stanislav CITA, CSc.

Medical Student Advisory Council Chapter at Charles University

Alumni Medical Advisory Council Chapter at Charles University

The Czech Legal Advisory Council  

JUDr. Lukáš Haase, Attorney At Law

14 New Guidelines Boxing Needs Now to Reduce the Incidence of Progressive Neurological Disorders

The sport of boxing will be much safer for fighters if these 14 guidelines are instituted:

1. Age Regulations

2. Establishing Better Safety and Health Guidelines

3. Adherence to Safety Restrictions and Guidelines for Current and Upcoming Fights

4. More Rigorous Testing

5. Trainer Certification Class (PugEd)                                 

6. The need for Boxing or Combat Gyms to be "PUG-ED" Certified

7. More Comprehensive Stats -  Adding time in between fights comparative to number of times hit in head -- this could be added to the stats that a fighter has just like many televised fights record a computerized record to show how many blows a fighter received during the course of a fight. 

8. Need for a Combat Sports Federal Oversight Committee                                                                       

9. Abolish All Sanctioning Boxing Organizations such as the WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF. 

10. Make the promoters or the casinos–not the fighters–pay the exorbitant “sanction fees” to the bogus sanctioning bodies.

11. Create a poll of boxing writers and broadcasters to generate impartial ratings11. Create a poll of boxing writers and broadcasters to generate impartial ratings.

12. Establish a pension system for boxers that includes a health plan and death benefits.

13. Organize a labor union for all boxers.

14. A special panel assembled to monitor the performance of judges.

 

1. Age Regulations

There is a time to lace up gloves and a time to hang them up.

This brings two groups into question:

Young Children:
Young children’s brains are still developing - brains are small, so injury proportionately damages a larger area.   Consequently the NFL has come out and stated that children should be playing flag football.  Similarly, blows directed at a child’s head should be eliminated from practice and competition and restricted to the body as a child’s health takes priority.  As far as the fans are concerned, how exciting is it to watch a physically immature child hit another child - especially when we know that the long term consequences are worse than if they were to compete at physical maturity?  

In terms of developing a child's full potential, would it not be better to teach children the lost art of body punching during their formative years and introduce head attacks after they reached physical maturity?  It would make them more effective and therefore exciting fighters later on in their career and eliminate the effects on neurological trauma during their youth.

Aging fighters:
In any aging fighter there is a consequential loss of physical ability, muscle mass, difficulties in making weight, deteriorating reflexes associated with age (which can also be compounded by undiagnosed progressive degenerative effects) which all contribute to decreasing a fighter’s ability to defend himself against a younger fighter and thus increased risk of neurological damage in an attempt to extend both his luck and career.  Therefore wouldn't fans prefer to see two young men fight who are in their prime as opposed to an aged fighter whose physical abilities have diminished with age?

Given decreased ability, the brain is subject to more trauma and thus injury. 

Given the hazards: These two groups must be carefully monitored.  

 

2.  Establishing Better Safety and Health Guidelines

Many state boxing commissions do not evaluate fighters at the same standard. Texas for example has been known to grant licenses to injured and compromised fighters when other states will not.  Classic example is Edwin Valero who had a spot on his brain who was refused license in every state except Texas.  These infractions need to be widely publicized and pressure put on these commissions to better protect fighters.

Given that many progressive neurological disorders cannot be diagnosed by today's imaging methods, not to mention that neurological damage is irreversible - we have to exercise preventative methods. Protect the Pug is not picking on boxing or any other sport that subjects an athlete to head trauma, but simply reduce those factors that increase the risk of neurological damage just like when we developed head gear and football helmets to reduce head trauma.

If a fighter past the age of 35 is to enter competition there has to be a very good reason why given the enhanced risks.  For example:

Is the fighter still a legitimately ranked champion?

Is the fighter reflecting an increase in losses in their record?  Or a record that would indicate that he is taking too much punishment and not suited for the sport?  For example, there are fighters who are over 35 who have accumulated records with no wins and over 100 losses.  You certainly do not have this lack of talent in other professional sports such as baseball or football. Given that boxing does not tolerate mediocrity without consequence, such fighters should not be allowed to participate due to risks to their health.  These fighters are called “opponents” and are on hand to be exploited by promoters who are looking to pad their upcoming proteges’ records as means to delude audiences of their skill, build fan bases, and set up lucrative fights against higher level fighters whose records are also often padded.  Having two undefeated fighters with impressive records - regardless of the quality of opponents beaten sells more tickets than those same two fighters meeting with losses on their records against more difficult opposition.  Unfortunately, the “opponent” suffers from the beatings he should be barred from taking.

What is the Justification of an older fighter fighting?  With these realities in mind, who wants to see an old fighter whose skills have been diminished by age - basically a shell of his youth - fight?  Other than the value of his fan base that buys tickets - that took years to develop what does the fighter truly contribute to what is arguably a young man’s sport?  Worse what risks does he impose to himself and criticism of boxing by the medical community?  

Case example:  Bernard Hopkins at age 51 returned to the ring 2 years after taking a savage beating at the hands of a young Sergei Kovalev and fought 27 year old knockout artist Joe Smith. Smith knocked out Hopkins.

Blatant Greed and Ignorance:  It is these kinds of practices and behavior that threaten the sport of boxing, the business of boxing, the reputation of boxing and the lives of the fighters.

Boxing is a young man’s sport.  Fans want to see skill at its highest form, not an impaired deteriorated fighter take a savage beating where they longer belong.

 

3. Adherence to Safety Standards and Restrictions for Current and Upcoming Fights

When fighters are knocked out in competition, they are suspended for 90 days.  The same practice should apply to being knocked out during training in preparation for a fight.

Just as we test fighters for anabolic steroids, fighters need to be routinely tested if they have suffered a concussion during training. 


Example: In preparation for his fight with Conor McGregor, Floyd Mayweather was rumored to have been knocked out in sparring and not brought in for a routine evaluation - which if it was determined that he had a concussion, would suspend him from fighting for 90 days.  Such a suspension of course would have postponed the fight and caused a great financial inconvenience.  Ironically, we do random drug testing on athletes for suspected use of steroids,y et when it comes to traumatic brain injury and the risk of a man’s life we do nothing.  Floyd was soon to be 41 years old, had been inactive for two years. His Uncle Roger who is only 12 years his senior 53 years old, a former two time world champion suffering from dementia.  If it had been a reported that he was taking steroids, he would have likelybeen tested.  Interestingly, the NAC who should have tested him for concussion, instead broke their own rules by dropping the glove weight from 10 to 8 ounces at Floyd's request. Would that have happened if a Federal Oversight Committee had been in place? 


Example:  Manny Pacquiao did not report shoulder injury he incurred prior to his fight with mega-fight Floyd Mayweather out of concerns that the fight would be cancelled.  Pacquiao requested an anti-inflammatory injection before he entered the ring to fight Mayweather. although he was denied the injection, he was allowed to fight despite being impaired. How much? After the fight, Pacquiao required surgery, which meant that he was impaired as a fighter who was able to properly defend himself.  If there was a Federal Oversight Committee in place, would Pacquiao have been allowed to fight? 

 

4. More Rigorous Testing

Many progressive neurological disorders cannot be determined until post-mortem autopsy.  Although medical science is trying to determine blood markers for such diseases as CTE, there are currently other exams that proffer insight such as PET-CT exams.  Unfortunately, these exams are expensive and the medical community is in fight to get the companies who own these machines to bring the expense down.  But until we start to spare no expense, conclusive answers will continue to evade us.

 

5. Trainer Certification Class ("Pug-Ed"TM)

As Former Two-Time World Champion Roger Mayweather and trainer to Floyd Mayweather Jr.  famously remarked, "Most people don’t know sh-t about boxing” which is especially true when you consider that coaches are not required to undergo any kind of formal certification.  Anyone off the street can walk into a gym and call himself a trainer, despite not having any knowledge about boxing basics, first aid, or signs of concussion.  

What most athletes and coaches have not formally learned and therefore do not understand is that  motor control is developed and controlled in the brain. When you destroy these centers with diseases like Parkinson’s Disease and ALS, then you destroy the very programs that an athlete develops over the years through practice that enable the athlete to perform.

It takes a minimum of 10,000 hours of hard training for a person to transform him or herself into a world class athlete. Ten thousand hours to not only develop the muscles and flexibility, but more importantly the programs of coordination  in the brain that store and enable championship mastery of movement of any given sport. If these pathways are impaired, even the simplest tasks such as drinking a cup of coffee is difficult – much less being able to perform complex moves requisite at a world class level. So Yet what most athletic coaches don’t realize is that regardless of muscular strength, effort or past experience – without a healthy brain all motor related attempts are in vain, much like as it is analogous to running a computer program after the code has been removed.

So how do we fix the problem?  Protect The Pug's "Pug-Ed" education program is currently assembling a team of top trainers, physiologists and neurologists to educate and certify coaches and fighters.

 

6. The need for Boxing or Combat Gyms to be "PUG ED"Certified

Because many fighters and coaches are not aware and/or or do not understand or care about of the dangers of head trauma - many fighters fall prey to an unsafe and abusive gym environment.  A famous example, of this is was exposed when Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Showtime was sued by the Rahman family. The family said that Mayweather forced Rahman’s two sons to fight when they wanted to stop during the filming of an All Access Episode.  "The doghouse -- the rules are you fight 'til whoever quits," Mayweather said in the episode. Later, a smiling Mayweather adds, "Guys fight to the death. It's not right, but it's doghouse rules."  Mayweather was called in to answer to his remarks before the NAC.  Mayweather stated that his comments were not true and were to only promote the fight.  The commission wasquestioned Mayweather about the "doghouse" fights, accepted his testimony (which was not taken under oath) and adjourned the matter to the chagrin of many, since there were many other people in the gym, including Showtime production personnel, who were not questioned about what happened.

Whether true or not, the portrayal that was scripted and promoted in the All Access documentary does not set a good example for fighters, coaches and gyms who look up and emulate Mayweather.  It is especially sadistic, given Floyd's Uncle, Roger Mayweather, a former two time world champion who is now in his mid 50's, suffers from a severe neurological disorder that both Floyd Jr. and others believe is attributed to the blows Roger took during his career. 

Because of the nature and dangers in combat sports, gym owners and coaches need to undergo a proper licensing and certification process that helps to ensure all participants that there is an understanding of what is at stake and a liability for the establishment to be closed if rules are violated.  bot


 
7. More Comprehensive Stats  

Adding time in between fights comparative to number of times hit in head -- this could be added to the stats that a fighter has just like many televised fights record a computerized record to show how many blows a fighter received during the course of a fight.

 

8. Need for a Combat Sports Federal Oversight Committee

The problems in the business of boxing are rife. From State boxing Commissions having conflicting interests of satisfying promoters or risk losing lucrative fights to other states to judges who chronically render bad decisions which push a fighter back in the line of having to work his way back up which means taking more trauma to lax laws which do not penalize fighters who use performance enhancing drugs.  In the end, it is the fighter who takes the punches and suffers irreparable damage.  Boxing and other combat sports are in dire need of a Federal Oversight Committee. 

Boxing Journalist Jack Newfield reports:

"Senator John McCain and former New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer have both urged the creation of a national commission as the key to any purification of the cruelest sport. They understand that only a national regulatory authority can enforce such things as standardized tests and licensing for ringside doctors, judges and referees; national suspensions after three straight knockouts; a central repository for CT scans, MRIs and blood tests for drugs, steroids and HIV."

 

 

Additional Guidelines:

Jack Newfiled, in his article The Shame of Boxing in The Nation, has also called for the following needed changes:

"9. End all recognition of the international sanctioning organizations–the WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF.

According to former attorney general Eliot Spitzer, “They serve no useful purpose,” Attorney General Spitzer told me. “Their only function is to sell title belts and issue false rankings.”

“All it would take to make them irrelevant is for the TV networks to announce they no longer will recognize the ratings of these groups,” Spitzer said. 

10. Make the promoters or the casinos–not the fighters–pay the exorbitant “sanction fees” to the bogus sanctioning bodies.

Under the current system, champions have to pay 3 percent of their earnings to the WBC, WBA and IBF for the privilege of risking their title against a challenger approved by these worthless outfits.

When Evander Holyfield testified before the Senate in August 1992, he said that he had to pay $590,000 in sanction fees after his previous title defense. The sanctioning groups will strip a champion of his title and declare it vacant if he doesn’t pay. This is close to extortion. Over the course of his career, Holyfield has paid about $20 million of his earnings in sanction fees. Maybe that’s one reason he’s still fighting as he nears 40, well past his prime.

11. Create a poll of boxing writers and broadcasters to generate impartial ratings

This is the way it works in college football and basketball. The writers covering the games vote on the best teams. There is no reason boxing ratings can’t be compiled the same way–as long as it is a truly international poll. If a few popular champions recognized these rankings, that would be the final interment of the sanctioning bodies.

12. Establish a pension system for boxers that includes a health plan and death benefits

This could be accomplished if the fighters, promoters, cable TV networks and casinos agree to allocate just 2 percent of the revenue from all the mega-matches on pay per view to underwrite this endowment. Three such fights in one year would start a fund of $5 million or $6 million. A top accounting firm should audit and administer the fund. Any boxer who has been active for four years, or has had twenty bouts, should qualify for the system. But nobody who has taken a lot of beatings should be allowed to keep boxing just to qualify.

13. Organize a labor union, or guild, of all boxers

Paul Johnson and ex-champ José Torres have been agitating for a union for years. The best model is probably the Screenwriters Guild, since fighters are independent contractors. Traditional union solidarity and collective bargaining may not be practical among men who have to fight each other. But a union could provide a collective voice for individual rights. A union could audit pay-per-view revenues and the expenses promoters bill to fighters that often seem illegitimate or padded. A union could also demand a higher minimum payment for preliminary fighters.

14. A special panel should monitor the performance of judges

In many matches –the judges are picked by the promoters and the sanctioning bodies, not by the state commissions.

In many cases the judges are paid by the promoter, including travel expenses. They know which fighter is under an exclusive contract to that promoter. They don’t have to be told that if they favor that promoter’s employee, they will get future assignments from that promoter. Can you imagine a baseball owner picking and paying the home-plate umpire in a World Series game?

Those who are biased or engage in favoritism should lose their licenses. Judges should be required to make full financial disclosure to this licensing panel."

 

Final Call For Help:

Concussive blows are dangerous in any quantity, let alone the innumerable number of blows a professional contact sports athlete occurs during a multi-year career.  

Unlike orthopedic sports injuries, the effects of these blows and the neurological disorders that ensue often do not show up until years after an athlete retires. 

At Protect the Pug, our united voice will not only strive to protect the fighters with proper policies enforced,  but also ensure that top quality fights are being brought to the fans.

 

Our 8 Point Mission In Boxing

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1) Establish Physician & Student Medical Advisory Council in all Universities. See more here.
2) Establish Medical Internships promoting neurological holistic health. See more here.
3) Establish "Pug Ed™"
 - to train Contact Sports Coaches how to better protect their athletes. See more here.
4) Develop Petitions to accelerate lifesaving changes to flawed policies. See more here.
5) Form a Protect the Pug Movement monitoring the ignorance and misconduct of Coaches and Commissions through both Petition and a push for protective legislation. Coming soon.
6) Push for legislation where Boxers and MMA Athletes who use illegal PEDs to gain an unfair advantage in strength, and thus increase the likelihood of their opponent incurring head trauma, are criminally prosecuted. See more here.
7) Raise Funds For Medical Research in an effort to both minimize the occurrence of progressive neurodegenerative diseases and ultimately find a cure.  Coming soon.
8) Get a Federal Oversight Committee instituted to make Professional Boxing safer and fairer. See more here.

The Need for "Pug Ed"

If you are a boxing trainer you probably know how to teach a fighter how to throw a punch.  How to skip rope.  How many daily rounds of sparring is necessary to  prepare for a championship 12 round professional fight.  You may even know how to manage an eye cut with adrenaline.  

But do you know when your fighter has received a concussion in training?

Do you know how to check for it?

Do you know the repercussions if ignored?

As a trainer, do you know that the brain is the center of athletic ability?  Do you know which parts play a major role?  Do you know that a concussion can not only deteriorate higher mental abilities such as memory and critical thinking - but also slowly and irreversibly deteriorate  an athlete's ability to perform athletically - undermine everything you and your athlete have invested in time, effort and training?

Do you know that both concussive and sub-concussive blows over time time can lead to progressive and debilitating neurological disorders such as CTE, Parkinson’s Disease, ALS, and Alzheimer’s Disease?  Are you familiar with the symptoms of these diseases?  

 

Brain Damage that Occurs During an Actual Fight

Many trainers will pull a fighter out of a fight when their fighter has sustained an orthopaedic injury such as a broken bone, torn ligaments or tendons.  But few have any idea of the complications when it involves brain injury.  Do you know when to pull your fighter out of a fight?  Understandable if you don't, because some top trainers in past high profile fights certainly did not know.  Case example was the war between Gerald McClellen and Nigel Benn.

It is said that McClellan complained of headaches during the preparation for his fight with Benn.  His trainers obviously did not understand the consequences - but even if the headaches drew concern - would it have made a difference given what was on the line with McClellen’s upcoming championship fight with Benn?  After all they probably saw similar situations where a fighter had headaches and nothing immediately came of it.  But even if McClellen did not complain of headaches before the fight, his corner invariably overlooked signs of brain injury (obsessive blinking, rubbing head, and slowed reflexes) during the fight.  But so did the ringside physicians.

The outcome of this fight was tragic.  No McClellen was not outclassed by Benn.  To the contrary, the bout was an even back and forth war - with neither man giving an inch - the difference, however, was that McClellen was conceivably neurologically injured either both before and/or during the fight.  The blows that Benn delivered culminated in McClellen collapsing on the canvas into a coma.  When McClellen awoke he was permanently paralyzed.

As a coach, do you know when to throw in the towel when your fighter has taken too many blows in a fight?  Do you have a checklist of the kinds of blows he has taken, a checklist of what to look for and a regard of the conceivable consequences that neurological disabilities that await him in the future?

Philadelphia is famous for producing some of the toughest fighters in the history of the sport as it is for the legendary gym wars that claim responsibility for producing them.   Legends such as  Olympic Gold Medalists and World Champions Joe Frazier and Meldrick Taylor are products of that environment.  

As renowned as these gym wars were known for producing the game’s toughest men, they were also legend for shortening the careers of many.  A classic example is the career of Meldrick Taylor.

Winner of the 1984 Olympic Gold Medal in Boxing, Taylor went on to win the Welterweight Championship of the World.  Taylor was a talented fighter who did not need to slug to win fights.  But Taylor came up in the Philadelphia gyms - where you earned your badge of honor by walking through your opponent in sparring as opposed to defensively out-boxing them.   

Over time the gym and ring wars took their toll, culminating in a tragic end when Taylor faced Julio Cesar Sr.  Many pundits observed that Taylor could have outpointed Chavez with his skills and talent to hit and move, but preferred to trade blows with Chavez to the fans delight.  At the end of the 12th round, Taylor was dropped.  Although he rose at the count of six with no time left on the clock, referee Richard Steele stopped the fight in what has since been a regarded as a highly controversial stoppage. 

Had the bout not been stopped, Taylor would have won a split decision on the judges' score cards.  But if you look at Taylor after the fight you have to ask if the fight was stopped too late.  Although Taylor started showing neurological effects after that bout, he was still was able to get a license to fight.  Today, Taylor suffers from dementia.

How could this be allowed to happen?  

Could it be that trainers and fighters do not understand the progressive long term effects?  And if so should a trainer be allowed to train a fighter without this basic understanding when he is essentially being put in charge of a fighter's life?  And what about the commissions and even the doctors who play a role in granting a fighter a license?  Do they not also play a role in such matters?

 

Brain Damage that Occurs

During Sparring at the Gym

Because many fighters and coaches are not aware and/or or do not understand or care about of the dangers of head trauma - many fighters also fall prey to an unsafe and abusive gym environment.

Clip from All Access Documentary

A famous and most recent example of this is was exposed when Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Showtime was sued by the Rahman family. The family said that Mayweather forced Rahman’s two sons to fight when they wanted to stop during the filming of an All Access Episode.  "The doghouse -- the rules are you fight 'til whoever quits," Mayweather said in the episode. Later, a smiling Mayweather adds, "Guys fight to the death. It's not right, but it's doghouse rules." 

Mayweather was called in to answer to his remarks before the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NAC).  Mayweather stated that his comments were not true and were to only promote the fight.  The NAC questioned Mayweather about the "doghouse" fights, accepted his testimony (which was not taken under oath) and adjourned the matter to the chagrin of many, since there were many other people in the gym, including Showtime production personnel, who were not questioned about what happened.  Given the weakness of NAC's inquisition, combined with the fact that there is no higher court of authority than the state athletic commission and the conflict of interest a state athletic commission has with a high powered promoter like Mayweather who brings in millions of dollars is a small number of reasons why there needs to be a Federal Oversight Committee in boxing which Protect The Pug is petitioning.  

Was Mayweather telling the truth before the NAC?   Mayweather's mockery of the fighter who was hit hard, knocked down and had no equilibrium when he tried to get up looked very real.  And if Mayweather was telling the truth to the NAC, the portrayal that was scripted and promoted in the All Access documentary does not set a good example for fighters, coaches and gyms who idolize and emulate Mayweather.

 

Sadism, Ignorance, and Money Rules:

Welcome to the Wild West of Combat Sports

 Currently, both Boxers and MMA trainers are neither certified nor require any formal education when it comes to having an essential neurological understanding of their fighter's health. And that does not even address the same problem with uneducated coaches in other contact sports. 

 

The Need for Basic Neurological

Education and Certification

At a minimum an MMA or boxing trainer's understanding of neurology is urgently needed given they are currently not required to have any medical education or certification, but rather only a subjective idea on what is excessive head trauma which accompanies no understanding of its consequences. Yet despite this ignorance, non-medically certified trainers have the welfare of a fighter's life in their hands and are allowed to accompany them into the ring. 

 

The Need for Psychological Testing

Police officers are psychologically tested for their competency to serve the public.   Similarly, a psychological exam for a contact sport's trainer is also necessary for several reasons: 1. To help rule out any signs or predispositions to  sadistic behavior.  2. Given most trainers are ex-fighters and have been exposed to consistent head trauma, they may be psychologically compromised due to undiagnosed and progressive diseases like CTE and therefore have impaired psychological judgement.

The Solution

To reduce the incidence of head trauma and corresponding progressive neurological disorders like CTE, we at Protect The Pug have designed a Pug Ed  online course and exam.  This online certification program is designed to teach the trainer basic neurological skills that he should know that will help him better protect his fighter both in the gym and during competition.  The exam will be given by the Athletic Commission within the State that the trainer is licensed and must pass if they are to accompany their fighter into the ring or cage.

 

Boxing and Combat Sports' Gym Certifications:

The Educated Consumer is the safest Customer

The sadistic behaviorthat is exhibited in one of the most famous boxing gyms in the world (Mayweather Gym) in the above All Access video, is a prime reason why both boxing and combat sports gyms should also be required to have Pug Ed certification.  Such certification would force gyms to enact new rules such as:

* Mandating that cameras be installed in the gym where films are subject to audit.

* Not over matching a fighter in sparring.

*Stopping a match if one fighter started taking too much punishment.

*Recording the number of blows a fighter takes in every sparring match which can then be combined with the total number of blows he also takes during a particular bout.  Collectively the two sets of data can help establish a maximum limit of the number of blows a fighter is allowed to take within a certain period of time. 

The establishment of record protocols can inform fighters, parents of fighters or parents who are simply looking for their child to learn self -defense, determine if the gym is certified and thus adhering to sound rules that protect athletes from abuse.   The Pug Ed certification of a gym can be awarded by a governing body.  The revocation of a gym's certification would require the gym to close down, just as a restaurant would be required to close if was in violation of sanitation rules.  The potential for TBI must be taken just as seriously, if not more so, than the negligence that causes food poisoning.

 

How The Establishment of Rules and collected data  behind Certification Can Aid Medical Science

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Punch stats of blows to the head from both sparring and actual fights need to be collected, recorded and archived for scientific research. 

Records of blows to the head that have been accumulated in both sparring and actual fights along with brain scans and neurological testing will not only help to better protect fighters, but may also help physicians and scientists gain a better understanding of how much punishment is required to both establish certain thresholds of punishment that when crossed are linked to progressive neurological diseases.

 

The Need For Pug Ed Education and Certification for Trainers and Gyms

Driver’s Education or Driver’s Ed was created to teach people not only how to drive, but also drive safely.  Similarly, the same kinds of measures are needed for those who license, mentor and engage in contact sports. 

Given developments in neurological research and the highly publicized effects of blows on players in the NFL as well as football players in high school and college - boxing and other combat sports should no longer be allowed to continue to fly under the radar of medical scrutiny and precautions.  For the sake of safety, prevention, and providing medical science with important data to find a cure, coaches and gyms need to be required to become properly certified and partake in “Pug Ed” protocols.  

 

 

This Deadly Practice Needs to Be Eliminated From Soccer - Permanently!

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In light of recent medical evidence regarding the effects of head trauma from contact sports, isn’t it time soccer did away with the archaic and dangerous practice of heading the ball?

In 1995, a medical research study showed that children who headed the ball in soccer suffered a 9% reduction in IQ in comparison to their peers. 

Oddly, no one really paid any attention - not coaches, school officials or even parents. 

But now nearly two decades later, there is a new dilemma that has been discovered - Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE - a neuro-degenerative disease that seems to be common denominator for all contact sports.  In soccer, CTE also seems to be linked to the concussive effects of heading the ball.

And still, many school officials and law makers are doing nothing about it.  Consequently, many parents are unaware of the consequences. 

Parents need to be made aware.

At Protect the Pug we need to push for changes in legislation to eliminate this practice in soccer.  But given that laws are slow to change, we need to urge schools to advise parents with brochures that they need to both read and sign to give their children to participate in a game that currently allows them to head the ball.  We created a petition which is looking to change laws that prevent schools from letting children head the ball during play and also provide parents with literature making them aware of the dangers.   This petition can be accessed here. 

Concussive and sub concussive blows are not only linked to CTE but also other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease - diseases that not only sabotage a players IQ but also ability to athletically perform.  That’s right the very abilities that enable an athlete to perform at the world class level.  

Not Good Business Sense

If that’s the case, other than lawsuits, shouldn’t professional team owners who own multi-hundred million dollar teams, and pay their players millions of dollars a year be concerned that a single practice could be destroying their players ability to perform?

It’s a New World

If no one cares about the welfare of a child’s mental and intellectual development - if it is all about the bottom line of profit -  then in light of the risks to players and investment, would it not be wise that the team owners and the league wake up and agree to eliminate this one dangerous practice of heading the ball which will protect their investment in a number of ways from their players ability to perform, to preventing lawsuits from players both now and in the future, from  parents keeping their children out the game which will potentially result in the loss of the next Lionel Messi, to the sport consequently suffering loss in overall participation, fan interest and ultimately lost revenue like American football?  

It will certainly be a lot easier and faster to get schools, parents and children to comply if the rule change came from the top - The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).  What do you say guys?

This One Body Part Could Be Killing Your Game -- Find Out Now!

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Contact Sports and Progressive Degenerative Changes in the Neck can cause Destructive Changes to the Nervous System, Athletic Ability and Performance - What an Athlete Needs to Know!

We already discussed in our What it takes to become a World Class Athlete - What Most Trainers Do Not Know video how concussive and sub-concussive blows are linked to progressive neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease and other motor degenerative problems .   But there is another less discussed, yet common problem among contact sports athletes (as an indirect  result of blows to the head)  that can cause serious motor related problems that  can also rob an athlete of both their ability to perform: It is called Cervical Spondylosis with Myelopathy.  

So let’s take a look how it can happen to you:

When a contact sport’s athlete (e.g. boxer, football player, wrestler falling to mat) receives a blow to the head, the skull violently rocks back similar to the manner of when someone is rear ended in a car accident.  Consequently, the brain smashes inside the skull as well as being subject to torsional forces thus predisposing it to injury.  Additionally, the sudden whiplash force that knocks the head back also traumatizes the intervertebral discs. This is why it is not uncommon to see a coinciding disc herniation in the neck alongside the presentation of a brain concussion.                                                                                                                         

By Mysid (original by Tristanb) - Vectorized in CorelDraw by Mysid on an existing image at en-wiki by Tristanb., CC BY-SA 3.0

When intervertebral discs herniate, they can put pressure on

1. the ventral roots (see picture above) that come out of the spinal cord. The ventral nerve roots are responsible for motor control, muscle contraction or movement. 

2. the dorsal roots which are responsible for sensation or feeling.  (see picture above)

The ventral nerve root and the dorsal nerve root merge together to form the nerve trunk or spinal nerve and then bifurcate to the dorsal and ventral rami which go on to innervate the muscles.  (see picture above)

Unlike a herniated disc in the lower back which causes pain and loss of sensation in the lower limbs by pressing on these different spinal nerve regions, a degenerated or herniated cervical disc is more insidious and potentially dangerous.  That is because the real problems arise from progressive degenerative changes which are more common in injured cervical discs than they are in injured lumbar discs, which:
1. Cause the injured cervical disc to become calcified, and  
2. Cause the production of osteophytes or uncontrolled growth of bone spurs. 

Both the growth of disc calcification and spurs over time can grow back and not only press on the nerve roots, but also the spinal cord itself.  They can also interrupt cortico-spinal pathways which innervate the lower limbs.  This condition is known as Cervical Spondylosis with Myelopathy and can affect both the cervical joints and discs. 

This one-two punch combination can be disastrous because compression of these delicate structures can cause the upper limbs (arms, hands) to develop lower motor neuron problems (hypotonia, hyporeflexia, flaccidity), and muscle atrophy due to a lack of innervation and, in severe cases, potentially impair cortico-spinal descending tracts which will affect lower motor neurons present in the lumbar area which control the lower limbs (legs, feet) to develop upper motor neuron problems (hypertonia, hyper-reflexia, spasticity).

If this problem persists long enough, permanent nerve damage and consequent muscle atrophy can result. 

A person with Cervical Spondylosis with Myelopathy will typically present with both neck pain and limited range of neck motion due to irritation of motor neurons.  They may also complain of arm pain and eventually arm weakness, if there is extended compression of the ventral roots.  In this video, MMA fighter Holly Holm talks about the loss of tricep strength and arm pain following a cervical disc herniation.

 

Prevent Injury By Taking These Two Precautionary Steps:

1. Strengthen Neck and Trap Muscles: 
If you are going to participate in contact sports, you better have a strong neck.  Importance of strengthening neck and trapezius muscles are not only important for reducing the incidence of head concussions, but also important for protecting the intervertebral discs of the cervical spine.  However, training neck muscles also carries risk when not performed properly.  When performing strengthening exercises, one must exercise care that they perform exercises properly, so they do not injure the delicate disks or joints that comprise the cervical spine. Therefore, before undertaking any kind of weight training program consult both your doctor and seek the help of a qualified trainer.  

2. Train Smart and minimize hard blows to the head in training.  
Boxers and MMA fighters need to minimize the practice of hard blows to the head in sparring, while wrestlers need to take care how they throw their partners and pressure applied to the cervical region during practice.  By exercising more precaution in contact training, not only will you reduce the amount of head trauma that is linked to progressive neurological disorders, but also degenerative changes to the cervical spine which can occur as well. 

 

In this video, Boxer GGG performs neck training exercises to help better protect both his neck and brain from concussive blows. 

Cervical Disc Injuries: More than Just a Pain in The Neck!

Neck injuries are a serious matter in contact sports - but not discussed often enough, as we typically pay attention to only those high profile accidents which cause immediate and traumatic quadriplegia or paraplegia such as when Nick Buoniconti’s son Nick Buoniconti Jr. was paralyzed during a practice scrimmage or when actor Christopher Reeves fell off a horse and broke his neck.  However,  even seemingly minor neck injuries should be taken seriously and evaluated by a physician, as degenerative changes can not only rob an athlete of their ability to perform, but also dramatically affect their overall quality of life.

Football, Boxing, Brain Trauma and Low Testosterone and Growth Hormone Levels – Ouch! Part II

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I wish to clarify some points made in the first part of this article, which centered on ESPN’s special on Contact Sports and Brain Trauma (reference here).

Although most of us are aware of the obvious risks that contact sports pose to cognitive function – few understand the risks posed to hormonal function. Unless someone has been previously exposed to this research, the idea that brain trauma can lower testosterone levels is counter intuitive – given that testosterone is produced in the testes and not in the brain. However, you can see how this is both possible and logical since it is the pituitary gland’s production of LH (luteinizing hormone) that is responsible for the production and regulation of testosterone in the testes.

In the video, former World Champion James Toney was shocked when his doctor told him he had low testosterone levels as a possible result of brain trauma. A condition that doctors are only now beginning to understand. The documentary depicts an ironic twist of how contact sport athletes – known for their reputation of testosterone-related aggression – risk suffering from low testosterone as a result of the unavoidable hits they incur.

It is important that both athletes and especially parents of child athletes are well informed of every given sport’s risks. Only then can we innovate the necessary safety provisions to better protect all participants from harm.

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Please feel free to share or let us know your thoughts on this very important topic.

Yours in strength,

Coach Craig Smith

Football, Boxing, Brain Trauma, Low Testosterone Levels, and Growth Hormone Levels– Ouch! Part I

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It has always been widely known that severe blows to the head incurred from contact sports such as boxing caused irreparable destruction of brain cells. Recently the medical community has determined that such blows can also damage the pituitary gland that secretes many of the body’s most important hormones – particularly those responsible for the body’s presence of testosterone and hGh (hormone growth hormone.)

Former world boxing champion James Toney and many other contact sports athletes reportedly suffer from low testosterone levels which may be attributed to brain trauma as discussed in this ESPN Report.


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James Toney demonstrates the kind of blows that can wreak havoc on the pituitary gland.


Could this be a contributing and perhaps arguably ethical reason behind why Toney and other contact sport athletes such as football players widely resort to using anabolic steroids?

I know what you are thinking… low testosterone levels in a man is not exactly an attractive attribute. It is bad enough, boxers have to deal with jokes and characterizations about being punch drunk. But now low testosterone levels? The very precursor to low libido, low energy, depression and impotence??? Talk about a woman’s idea of a fun date!

I shudder to think of the social stigma that will be attached to this new finding. So if your single, maybe it’s not a great idea to brag to your date or Facebook page that you are a boxer, a football player or any kind of contact sport’s athlete for that matter.

Be sure to let us know your thoughts on this hot and very controversial topic.

Yours in strength,

Coach Craig Smith

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