By Kiptanui Rutto
Boxing is a great way to get fit and flexible; it is an exercise that combines an exciting and fast-paced cardio workout with explosive upper and lower body power. It is also a self-defense technique and other many positive reasons why you should learn it.
However, boxing has one huge negative effect; the head injuries.
According to a 2011 paper in Clinics in Sports Medicine, the discovery of head injuries in boxing is traced way back to 1928 where a New Jersey medical examiner discovered a series of symptoms in about half of the fighters who had long careers.
Boxing is a sport filled with blows to the head thus becoming a testing ground for scientists and head injuries discoveries have come from the world of boxing, and many of them are ugly.
According to Henry Halse, a Livingstrong research writer, since the initial estimate of about half of all professional fighters having brain injuries in 1928, a 2012 report in PloS One revealed that over 80 per cent of Olympic boxers had signs and symptoms of brain injury.
“Does it mean either the sport has gotten more violent or it is easier to detect these injuries?” he wondered.
According to Independent, United Kingdom’s website, approximately 500 boxers have died in the ring or as a result of boxing since 1884. Some of the worst incidents since the Second World War include:
The 1947 death of Jimmy Doyle who died of brain injuries 17 hours after being knocked out by Sugar Ray Robinson in a world welterweight title fight. Fifteen months earlier, Doyle had suffered severe concussion in a contest with Artie Levine.
In 1960s, Benny Paret died of brain injuries after losing to Emile Griffith in a world welterweight title fight. Others include Davey Moore, Lyn James, Ulrich Regis died after surgery to remove a clot from his brain.
In 1970s, three boxers died and in 1980s, 13 died while in 1990s eight more died including Paul Wangila Napunyi, who collapsed after being stopped by David Gonzalez in 1994. Wangila is the only Kenyan Olympic gold medal winner outside athletics and the only boxer from Sub-Saharan Africa to win Olympic gold medal. He died after an operation to remove a blood clot from his brain.
Back in Kenya, a few days ago, photos of Conjestina Achieng surface the social media after radio star Carol Radull visited her at her family home in Yala.
The question is, could Conjestina popularly known as ‘Conje’ be suffering from the brutal side of boxing? Does she suffer dementia -a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning?
From the symptoms, only personality changes match Conje’s situation, meaning, she is fine.
Conjestina represented the country in many events including the WIBF Middleweight title of 2009 which she won in Royal Event Center in Berlin, Germany.
According to Radull, the boxer has lost a lot of weight but physically she is still strong.
In her post on Facebook, Radull stated that Conje is however; very angry at what she feels is a system that abandoned her at her time of need. She repeatedly said how she was on top of the world, represented Kenya but felt a lack of recognition.
Sources indicate that the boxer started doing things that shows she had lost her mind. It is reported that at one time she had started walking around picking polythene bags like what mad people do.
Efforts to save her have not yield fruits. It was said she had started taking local brew and her health deteriorated. On getting the information, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko through his team Sonko Rescue Team, airlifted her to Nairobi where she was taken to rehabilitation centre. When she recovered, Conje went back to the village where she went back to her former system.
Radull said the boxer had been on top of my mind since Covid-19 struck and that is why she chose to visit.
On his Twitter post, Octopizzo reacted saying at times he feels this country doesn’t deserve their talents; Conjestina is and will always be a legend. He wondered how ‘Githeri man’ got all that VIP treatment for standing in line with Nyoyo, yet Conje cannot afford good medical health care after representing this country worldwide.
The Government has no provision of support to former athletes and stars who end up dying poor or in depression.
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Conje lives in a humble hut with a shrine of silverware – shields and belts she had won; the only reminder of what she used to mean to the country.
From her visit, Radull recommended Conje needs more rehabilitation and some counselling to overcome her dependence on abusive substances and then change of environment where her mind will be kept busy and her talent tapped and she feels useful and appreciated.
In concussion, head injuries happen when a boxer gets hit in the head. The brain sits in a pool of protective fluid inside the skull, but doesn’t actually touch the skull bones. When you get hit in the head the brain smacks against the hard skull, causing bruising and damage. If the hit is severe enough it can cause the person to go unconscious for a brief period of time. This is a concussion, popularly known as in knockout boxing. When it gets worse and the brain deteriorates over time, it is known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) causing the brain ages to decline much faster.
Signs of CTE are an inability to pay attention, easily losing concentration, trouble remembering things, confusion, dizziness and headaches. As it gets worse the boxer’s judgment starts to get worse; he starts to behave erratically, and can cause Parkinson’s Disease or dementia.