Ninety days? More like a year.
That's the minimum time MMAjunkie.com medical columnist Dr. Johnny Benjamin believes former Bellator featherweight champ Joe Warren should stay on the bench – if he returns at all.
"He needs a year off for his brain to heal and then reassess his life and say, 'Is this what I want to continue to do?'" Benjamin told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio
Warren (7-3 MMA, 5-2 BFC), who began fighting in 2009 after a decorated career in amateur wrestling, has suffered back-to-back knockout losses in his past two outings. Most recently, Pat Curran (17-4 MMA, 7-1 BFC) took his title by landing a knee and a subsequent flurry of punches that left him slumped on the canvas a week ago at Bellator 60.
Afterward, Warren vomited backstage – one of the telltale signs of a concussion – and was taken to an area hospital. He was released the following day.
The Indiana Gaming Commission's athletic division, which oversaw the bout, issued Warren a 90-day suspension. But Benjamin believes that term is woefully inadequate.
"Two vicious knockouts in a row? You don't even want to begin to think what that's doing to your brain," he said. "The man really needs a year off from taking blows to the head."
Prior to his bout with Curran, bantamweight Alexis Villa knocked Warren out cold at Bellator 51.
Warren's manager, Ryan Tobin, said the fighter weighed 140 pounds for the Curran bout – a possible 20-pound disadvantage to his 160-pound opponent – and will now focus his efforts on the bantamweight division. Before he resumes his fighting career, he'll travel to Ohio next month for the Olympic team trials, where he'll attempt to represent the U.S. at 132 pounds in 2012 Olympics.
Tobin, though, said Warren has no plans of hanging up his gloves.
Benjamin said a yearlong break should entail monitoring of the fighter's memory and balance, as well as the recurrence of headaches. Concussions are interchangeable with mild traumatic brain injuries, which can lead to severe health problems later in an athlete's life, not the least of which is chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
In the past year, fighters have been encouraged to participate in a long-term study on brain health that's currently underway at Las Vegas' Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. Researchers aim to study changes in the brain over a four-year span and hope to reduce the incidence of diseases such as CTE. In return, fighters get free brain scans that save money when they get licensed.
Ultimately, Benjamin would ask Warren, or any other fighter who had recently suffered a severe concussion, if he's considered another line of work.
"For a person that comes into my office, what do you say?" Benjamin asked. "Do the best thing for this person. You're not supposed to think about anything else. But in sports, what we're taught is not to do what's best for the person. What we're taught is called 'return to play.' Because everyone from the team or organization is going to ask you one question: How quickly can my man get back?
"No one has ever asked what's the best thing for this person. So part of the thing we have to do is start looking at this thing differently. We need to look at them as people and say, 'What's the right thing for this person?' Not what gets them back to competition the quickest."
However, Benjamin said he's well aware that his calls are likely to go unheeded. Athletes, after all, ultimately decide their destiny.