Philippines, 19 Aug 2019
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De La Vega: Can We Please Improve GAB’s Health Clearance Procedures?

It's is so sad in spite of efforts to continually call the attention of the leadership at Games and Amusement Board (GAB) of the Philippines regarding the dental condition of our boxers that are allowed to fight abroad, nothing significant had been done about it.

Realistically, I am aware that in the Philippines, even to the brightest and very rich, dental issues are always placed in the back burner, until they can no longer be tolerated. So it’s not surprising our leadership tend to ignore issues related to dentistry.

In fairness, I know they are trying because that is what they said.

However, whatever they have done leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, reliable sources state that no dental clearance has been seen in the documentation of Filipino boxers fighting abroad including those that frequently travel to China to fight.

Correct me if I am wrong, but don’t these boxers need to get a clean bill of health before they are given the “green light” to fight abroad?

Why are they then allowed to travel and fight if their oral conditions are so bad that immediate action must be done to prevent further complications that may jeopardize a fight or worse, the health of the boxer?

Does GAB consider a boxer to be in good health in spite of the presence of broken down teeth with concurrent peri-apical abscess?

I know that GAB has excellent physicians in their midst and the Chairman is the best there is, but I think it's about time GAB hires a dentist, or at the very least contract dentists to do dental related check ups for boxers and require a dental clean bill of health as part of the “medical clearance”! Can they make that a part of the requirement for a boxing license and a clearance to fight abroad?

I can almost hear GAB and other naysayers say, “these boxers are so poor they can’t afford to see a dentist!” I know because I heard them give the same excuse when I called for requiring boxers and other contact-sports athletes to use custom made mouthguards.

That is such a poor excuse!

The managers can advance the money and later get a refund from the boxer’s purse after the fight is over. I am sure managers can find ways to do this but are not doing it because nobody is requiring them to do so.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean that managers should be required to pay for full-blown dental work for their boxers. I am only talking of limited emergency work like extractions of badly broken down teeth so that the boxers don’t go abroad and fight with potential debilitating dental problems. Before they leave, they should be in a minimum state of acceptable dental health.

Now that is not too much to ask, isn’t it?

Case in point:

A Pinoy boxer that is slated to fight 10 rounds on Feb. 9th was brought to our offices today for a mouthguard. “He uses a very poor store-bought mouthguard,” his Coach informed me and “I would appreciate it if you make him a better one,” he added.

Routine problem-focused exams revealed that the fighter has two badly broken down teeth that are non-restorable and must be extracted to avoid further problems. X-rays revealed peri-apical abscess that will sooner or later become very problematic.

However, because of the proximity of the fight date (less than a week) I could not do the extraction even if I wanted too.

The best I can do is advise the boxer to let me know between now and his fight date if the abscesses flare up so I can address the problem then and to return to our offices after the fight for treatment.

I would have prescribed antibiotics but the coach is not sure if such are allowed by the CSAC. It’s rather too late for him to advise the CSAC because the commission takes more than two weeks to respond. Like he said, “we will just cross that bridge if it comes”.

Should dental problems even be an issue?

From my humble point of view, dental problems should never be an issue for the fighters slated to fight abroad, To assure this, the problem(s) must be addressed before boxers are allowed to leave the country.

It is the GAB’s responsibility to see to it that is done!

In this particular case, if the GAB had an effective screening process, the affected teeth could have been found and proper treatment instituted before the fighter came to the US. Had that been done, the wound would have healed by now given that the boxer has been in the US for several weeks before his fight was booked.

I believe that GAB should look far beyond their primary focus and common attitude i.e- “basta walang problema sa utak, makalaban yan (as long as there is no brain problem, boxers can fight). They must also focus of little things that can suddenly become a big issue and can cancel a fight or God forbid, lead to lost of life like in the case of Pancho Villa.

If the GAB has too many issues on their plate and they can not address dental related issues with better results, perhaps it is time that Senator Manny Pacquiao’s Senate Bill 1306 creating a “Boxing Commission” is implemented. Maybe a new government body that is purely focused on boxing can do a better job than GAB.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Ed de la Vega, DDS.

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