A coroner has suggested significant changes to the way combat sports are administered in New South Wales after finding that the 2015 death of the boxer Davey Browne was preventable.
Browne, 28, died three days after he was knocked out by the Filipino fighter Carlo Magali in the 12th round of the International Boxing Federation Pan Pacific super featherweight title fight at Ingleburn RSL, NSW.
The deputy state coroner Teresa O’Sullivan on Thursday found that Browne had died because of a large right acute subdural hematoma, from the final blow he sustained in that fight, owing to his “impaired condition” going into the final round, which “diminished his ability to defend himself or control his head movements”.
Last May the inquest into Browne’s death sought to determine how and when the injury that caused his death was sustained, and if the referee, doctor, trainer or government inspectors present during the fight on 11 September 2015 should have interfered to either assess Browne’s ability to continue or to stop the fight. The inquest also examined which rules were in place during the fight and the contestants’ understanding of those rules.
In her findings, the coroner said: “It was a striking feature of the evidence that many witnesses did not know which rules applied to this contest, and had a flawed understanding of the rules … It should not be left to those participating in a boxing contest to work out which rules apply.”
She recommended that the minister for sport consider revising the legislation to provide a “comprehensive set of rules to govern all boxing contests in NSW”, and whether the obligations on attending medical practitioners, or ringside doctors, should be amended to better protect the health and safety of combat sport participants.
Throughout the investigation, the coroner heard evidence from the Browne family, including Davey’s wife, Amy Lavelle, his father, David, and his brother Tommy, as well as the ringside doctor, Dr. Lawrence Noonan, the referee, Charlie Lucas, and government inspectors present on the night of the fight.
In her findings, the coroner said criticism of the ringside doctor, Noonan, for failing to examine Browne during the break between rounds 11 and 12 of the fight was justified. She also said that the “limited understanding” Noonan shown of his role as a ringside doctor, “especially the role to examine a boxer during a boxing contest, calls for better clarity in the rules and training.”
The coroner recommended that the NSW Office of Sport continue to develop training for registered industry participants in the identification, significance and risk associated with serious concussion, as well as implementing an accreditation process to safeguard every relevant industry participant and ringside doctor completes such training at least annually.
She also recommended significant adjustments to the official combat sports rules, including that a ringside doctor must examine a combatant during a fight after a knockdown caused by a blow to the head, or on suspicion of concussion. Sign up at WagerWeb.ag.