Contrary to popular belief, most deaths in combat sports occur in lower weight classes as opposed to the heavier hitting classes. One of the likely contributors is the brain dehydration that comes with rapid extreme weight cut practices associated with combatants making weight.
A tragic recent death in amateur kickboxing occurred earlier this year in Wisconsin and dehydration may have, yet again, played a role.
The Wisconsin Journal Sentinel has the story which is worth reading in full. In short, amateur kickboxer Dennis Munson Jr. died after hours after his debut bout. There are reportedly a myriad of issues which could have been better handled, among these were a difficult weight cut by the inexperienced athlete. When addressing the role dehydration may have played the Sentinel reports as follows:
They weighed in on the morning of the bout, giving them only hours to replenish weight lost to fight in a lighter class. It is a less expensive option for the promoter because officials don’t need to be paid to be there the day before.
But the state views that approach as more dangerous. In MMA matches in Wisconsin, officials require weigh-ins to be done the day before a fight. That allows more time for fluids to be replenished including around the brain, where they increase protection from blows…
In the weeks prior to his first bout, Munson worried about being able to make weight. Fellow fighters wondered if he was ready.
Five weeks before the fight, Munson committed in a contract to compete at 135 pounds, Joffe said. Fighters who don’t make weight can face “punitive fines” from the promoter.
It’s unclear how much weight Munson had to cut; Joffe said it was about eight pounds.By all accounts, it was a struggle for the already lean young man.
“He was stressing,” said Cody Heck, who was on the fight team with Munson. “We all talked to him and told him, ‘You gotta eat.'”
Weight-cutting is a widespread tactic in combat sports, but comes at a risk as fighters try to replenish lost fluids between the weigh-in and the fight.
Some states are considering increasing scrutiny of the weight-cutting process. In California, fighters would weigh in twice and be limited in the percentage of weight they can cut between weigh-ins, said Andy Foster, executive officer of the California State Athletic Commission.
“It allows for healthy rehydration but not ridiculous rehydration,” Foster said.
Several high-profile MMA and kickboxing fighters have collapsed following weight cuts in the past several years. Last year, a fighter in Brazil died after he suffered a stroke while in a sauna cutting weight.
Joffe said the Roufusport fighters are told how to safely cut weight.
“All you can do is tell them what to do, but you can’t force them to do it,” he said.
Some fighters said there were no classes on weight-cutting at Roufusport. The amateurs learned from the professional fighters.
They talked about “eating clean,” focusing on fish and spinach and other healthy foods. But if that doesn’t get them all the way down, they shed water weight. Fighters may sit in a sauna, work out while wearing plastic bags, stop drinking water. Derrick Munson later told policethat his brother wore extra clothes when he worked out and skipped meals.
Dennis Munson also struggled with his fighting skills, which is common for newcomers. He was fast, but he had trouble keeping his hands up as a defense.
“It takes a long time to get comfortable with people punching at your face,” said Johnson, his teammate. “You panic and don’t react properly, and that’s what happened with him.”
The weigh-in for the March fight was held at the Eagles Club, about eight hours before the event. A nurse did the prefight exam, which amounted to checking fighters’ vital signs.
Had it been a state–regulated event, Munson and the others would have received a full physical from a doctor in the weeks prior to the fight.
About 11 a.m., Munson texted his brother, Derrick, the good news that he made weight. Derrick said he would drive him to the fight later in the day.
On their way to the fight, according to the police report, Dennis Munson had one complaint: He was thirsty.
Derrick didn’t see his brother drink anything before the fight.
From the Sentinel’s reporting it appears many factors played a role in this unfortunate ring death. The tolls of dehydration and weight cutting, unfortunately, yet again appear to have played a role.