| 10.5°C Belfast

Dead boxer’s brother calls for ringside brain scanners

Doncaster Coroner Nicola Mundy recorded a conclusion of misadventure.

Close

Scott Westgarth (Nick Potts/PA)

Scott Westgarth (Nick Potts/PA)

Scott Westgarth (Nick Potts/PA)

The brother of a promising boxer who died hours after the biggest victory of his career has called for mobile brain scanners at ringside for pro fights, and for venues to be closer to neurosurgical units.

Light heavyweight Scott Westgarth, 31, died after his 10-round victory over Dec Spelman at the Doncaster Dome leisure centre in February 2018, a three-day inquest in the town has heard.

On Thursday, Doncaster Coroner Nicola Mundy recorded a conclusion of misadventure.

Ms Mundy said that one of her key concerns at the beginning of the hearing was whether the correct decision was taken to take the boxer to the nearest hospital – the Doncaster Royal Infirmary (DRI), which does not have neurosurgical unit.

The Doncaster Dome is a little bit too far from a neurosurgical unit I think, which had a part to play in thisAdam Westgarth

But the coroner concluded that it was “an appropriate decision” because casualties were only transferred directly into a neurosurgical units in very exceptional circumstances and, given his injuries, the 40-minute direct journey to the unit at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield would probably have meant he would have died anyway.

Speaking after the coroner’s conclusion, Mr Westgarth’s brother, Adam, said he accepted the coroner’s ruling, but said the Doncaster Dome was too far from a neurosurgical unit for professional bouts to take place there.

And he called for mobile brain scanners to be routinely located ringside with staff trained to use them.

Speaking outside Doncaster Coroner’s Court, he said: “The Doncaster Dome is a little bit too far from a neurosurgical unit I think, which had a part to play in this.

“One question I have to ask is that brain scanners could have detected the bleed at an earlier stage and appropriate action could have been taken straight away.

“There just wasn’t enough physical signs in that first half an hour, 40 minutes until things progressed too bad.”

Mr Westgarth said he believed the scanners cost around £14,000 each, but could raise concerns about unseen problems within three minutes.

He said: “That’s a small price to pay when it comes to saving boxers’ lives.

Scott loved the sport. I don't think Scott would want a change, he wouldn't want boxing to be banned or anything like that Adam Westgarth

“We can’t do anything about Scott but I think, ultimately, as part of his legacy, something needs to change and governing bodies need to be serious about brain scanners just to give boxers a better chance of survival if the worst was to happen.”

He said: “I’ve always been a fan of boxing and boxing’s always been in my family.

“Scott loved the sport. I don’t think Scott would want a change, he wouldn’t want boxing to be banned or anything like that.

“But I think the governing bodies should be doing a little bit more, if they can, to protect the boxers.”

Mr Westgarth added: “He went out out on a high, saving five people through organ donation.

“And I believe he was the only boxer ever to win his fight and then lose his life. I’ll love him forever and I’ll miss him.”

The coroner acknowledged that it was a “hard-fought match”.

Although Mr Westgarth was unsteady on his feet at the end, there was no reason at that time for the doctor to suspect the “catastrophic” bleed that was developing inside his head, Ms Mundy concluded.

He was sweet, lovely, caring - he was such a joyRebecca Marshall, Scott Westgarth's mother

The boxer conducted a post-match interview and was helped to his dressing room where he became ill – complaining of neck pain, dropping to his hands and knees, needing help to stand up and vomiting.

His condition further deteriorated in the ambulance on his way to hospital.

The coroner said that, although he was eventually taken to the neurosurgical unit at Royal Hallamshire Hospital, where he was pronounced dead the next day, his condition was already “irretrievable” at the DRI.

Addressing the issue of whether Mr Westgarth should have been taken to the DRI, Ms Mundy said: “In my opinion, it was an appropriate decision. It was the nearest hospital and allowed access to full medical support at the earliest opportunity.”

She recorded the cause of death as brain injury.

At the inquest earlier in the week, Mr Westgarth’s trainer Glyn Rhodes was in tears as he recalled how his fighter was in good spirits after “he’d just won the biggest fight of his career”.

Mr Rhodes said he believed his boxer would have progressed to bigger victories.

Mr Westgarth was originally from Prudhoe in Northumberland, but was living in Penistone, near Sheffield, for training purposes.

I hope they bear in mind that the Dome is too far away from a neurological unit. Stop having shows at the DomeRebecca Marshall

Of his 10 pro fights, he had won seven – two by knockout – lost two and drawn one.

After the inquest, his mother Rebecca Marshall said: “He was sweet, lovely, caring – he was such a joy.”

She said: “I hope that they take note of what Adam’s said about the scanners.

“I hope they bear in mind that the Dome is too far away from a neurological unit. Stop having shows at the Dome.”

PA