Let’s Talk South Carolina Fight Laws and “Breast Exams”

If you read state, provincial and other combat sports laws and regulations you often come across out of date, bizarre and sometimes outright wrong legislation on the books. Enter South Carolina.

This week I had reason to review South Carolina’s combative sports landscape and came across a law that seems to have no business being on the books.

South Carolina’s Code of Laws, Title 40, Chapter 81 deals with their State Athletic Commission.

The Commission is created “ to regulate boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, mixed martial arts, and other combative sports in this State

The law then goes on to have some peculiar requirements for ‘female boxers’ and ‘female kickboxers’.

I’ll let the law speak for itself:

Before each event or exhibition, the examining physician shall perform an abdominal examination and breast examination.

Interestingly these extra medical exams don’t seem to be mentioned in the sections dealing with MMA. Just boxing and kickboxing.

These exams are over and above the full medical workup male and female contestants need (blood work, physicals etc). Over and above what is needed to be licenced. Just a further exam for women “before each event” after they have already been deemed medically fit and clear to fight.

Several years ago I had the experience of digging into a story of a ringside physician conducting ‘breast exams’ on female fighters before letting them compete. This led me to reach out to the then president of the Association of Ringside Physicians to ask if there is any medical merit in such a practice. I’ll the the experienced doctor speak for himself:

Hi Eric. I will respond to your interesting question as a Ringside physician. (Not as the President or a representative of ARP). Ive been a Ringside doc for over 30 years. I have never performed a breast exam on a female fighter in a prefight physical. None of my partners or peers have either. The only reason I can think of to do one is if a female fighter has a known underlying breast condition that could possibly deteriorate or worsen secondary to competition.  (I am not aware of the existence of any such condition )
Thanks for asking.

What about the ‘abdominal exam’ perhaps pregnancy you may be thinking? Nope. The law clearly requires female fighters to produce a negative pregnancy test so that concern is dealt with. Appreciating that, and appreciating that these tests are not extended to other combat sports like MMA (if they served a legitimate medical purpose why pick and choose the sports where you are fulfilling that purpose) one can only speculate as to why these laws are actually on the books.

You can read the full Association Boxing Commissions Handbook of Ringside Medicine here. Nowhere does it suggest this is needed.

Barring legitimate medical backing South Carolina should promptly revisit these laws.


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