Even if you have no interest in boxing, there is a strong likelihood that you’ve heard about the Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight scheduled for May 2nd. The welterweight bout is being billed as the “Fight of the Century” with fans worldwide tuning in to catch the Las Vegas fight.
The fight is drawing attention to the many facets of boxing – from the ticket sales and general rampant spending that will take place in Las Vegas to the damaging effects boxing and other combat sports can have on the body.
It is an expected part of boxing to see ringside doctors tending to the inevitable damage that boxers endure during the ten to twelve rounds a professional boxer experiences. Blows to the body and face show signs of wear and trauma that are only made more evident by the tiring look strewn across the fighter’s face. The doctor is there to evaluate immediate harm and determine if the fighter is capable of continuing the fight. Yet, when the fight is over and the damage is done, these boxers turn to the trusted hands of plastic surgeons to reverse the harm.
The most evident surgery performed following a fight would be rhinoplasty. Though most commonly associated with aesthetic surgery, rhinoplasty, or nose reshaping, is often utilized to repair damage and restore function to the nose, particularly following a boxing match. A condition known as saddle nose deformity is often referred to as boxers’ nose deformity and is caused by a lack of cartilage support in the nose sometimes caused by repeated trauma. The condition can cause difficulty breathing, which can be particularly problematic for individuals at night when they need to sleep.
To correct the deformity, doctors will likely elect for a dorsal augmentation, typically requiring cartilage grafted from the ear. The cartilage restores the natural slope of the nose to create a more pleasing appearance and restore structure to the nose.
Fighters may also experience a common condition known as cauliflower ear after consistent trauma to the ears. The repeated blows cause internal damage to the delicate tissue, creating auricular hematomas, large blood clots within the ear. The hematoma cuts off natural blood flow to the surrounding tissue, causing the cartilage to die and shrivel, creating a cauliflower-like appearance. If drained and pressure wrapped properly the hematomas can be treated to prevent cauliflower ear from forming. If left untreated, the condition will require advanced otoplasty, or ear surgery, to repair the appearance and shape of the natural ear.
The risk of damage to the ears and nose are seemingly par for the course in the world of boxing. Reconstructive surgery is even used to repair the many lacerations that occur during a fight. Once scar tissue forms, the areas become more prone to injury because scar tissue is weaker than unscathed tissue. One surgeon, Dr. Frank Stile of Las Vegas, believes that improper suturing, damaged tissue, and natural bony protrusions can cause a fighter to be more susceptible to fight-ending facial bleeding. Dr. Stile has created a technique that is drawing fighters to the operating table before further damage is done, as a means of proactive treatment. His technique involves lifting the skin and reshaping sharp bony protrusions then removing scar tissue and replacing it with sterilized tissue from a cadaver that is applied to the periosteum, a covering on the bone that acts as an anchor. While many fighters proclaim the procedure’s effectiveness, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has not commented on the procedure due to a lack of medical research.
Whether elective or necessary, plastic surgery has a firm place in the world of boxing and other combat sports. As long as fighters endure traumatic injuries to the face and body, the skilled hands of plastic surgeons will be needed to repair the damage.