giovedì 23 febbraio 2012


The sport we chose, is dangerous and in the discharge form  to register for the Euros there was stated  that it possible to lose our life: "I realize that serious injury is commonplace in martial arts tournaments such as the one I am hereby entering and that death is a possibility. I also realize that if I am injured, I might be disfigured, disabled and/or rendered unable to work again".

But what is not stated, is that injured athletes are not protected, no professional rescue is provided, and not driven to the hospital. If I had known all this, most likely,  I wouldn't have put my trust in the hands of irresponsible organizers of an event considered one of the largest in the world.

Personally I  was head butted and the referee didn't see or didn't want to see. Andrea Lavaggi had to realign the joint of his little finger by himself because the nurses did not take responsibility to manipulate his hand, but definitely, the most incredible episode, which I personally witnessed,  was the bad injury that happened to Andrea Verdemare and the reaction of the doctors and the organizers.

I left the floor with Andrea. On february 1th he wrote on his FB wall the account of his experience: " For many years I have been fighting in the major leagues of IBJJF, and in each competition, either as a winner or loser, I learned something ... This year was no exception. 

Every year people push themselves further to win ... as widely known  many athlethes use performance enhancing drugs, ... every time when entering a competition everyone is willing to take that extra step that makes the difference between the first and second place.. All in the name of one passion ... passion which is not rewarded by anything ... because athletes pay an average of 80 euros not to receive anything in return ... not a reward, not a service.

In 2004, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza broke his arm during the absolute black belt final. He won exciting the crowd ... and still all practitioners of jiu jitsu are talking about that event, but from the wrong point of view.

That event led the campion to the decision not to fight anymore in IBJJF leagues . A world champion in the absolute division ran out of money to get home, the federation did not even call, no financial support for health care ...NOTHING. Today any BJJ practitioner talks about that fight as a legendary event, however, they are short minded, not being able to look beyond the competitive spirit itself.

From Andrea's post: "On January 29th, in the name of this passion that animates us, after so many sacrifices I stepped on the mat. In the middle of the fight my opponent pulled a kimura, I could defend it, he suddenly transformed it into an armlock. Again, I defended by turning my elbow, I felt that he was going to pull off an omoplata , but in the middle of the action ... CRACK ... a warm feeling began to pervade the arm that collapsed to the ground without any control. I turned on the other side so that I could not see it ...I screamed.

They took  me to the infirmary, I kept my arm while they were asking me questions ... they told me it was broken ... a compound fracture ... I had to go to hospital and go through surgery. Next to me there were my friends Simone and Matteo, they discussed with nurses and leaders of the federation. I overheard the tones of the discussion were growing, I was trying to concentrate in order to understand what happens."...the ambulance comes out of here just in case of life or death, otherwise we would be forced to stop the event, call a taxi ," said a voice in Portuguese. "But it's a compound fracture and it has been fixed with snacks paper boxes  he can not go by car, if we drive over a hole there is the serious risk  that the bone perforates the skin, muscles tendons or worse ..." Alberto replied. "... Security... move away this man, because of him we will not even give you the paper boxes to block the arm ... you will come out just with the bandage." Another Portuguese voice said "Call them a taxi and pay them so they get out of the way ".

I went out holding my arm, every step was like someone trying to rip the arm off from the bicep, one of the most intense pain I've ever tried. We asked around for the number of an ambulance because they did not want to give it to us. The building caretaker offered to take me to the hospital ... when the ambulance finally answered the telephone. I went out, deathly pale, I cannot describe the pain ... standing still I heard in the distance the sound of the ambulance sirens approaching. It was the most reassuring sound I had ever heard.

Today I'm in St. Filippo Neri hospital in Rome, I will go through surgery next friday and while I cannot move I am reflecting: I paid $ 35 for membership as an athlete, 82 euro to entry the competition but I am pretty sure I will not be refunded the 20 euros I spent for the ambulance. I think us, black belts, are for the federation nothing more than circus animals, only a way to keep the show up, to increase the passion of the lower belts in order to make them register for the next event, filling the wallets of the only real winners. It does not matter if we injury ourselves, if we use banned substances with the risk of compromising our health forever. The important thing is the show. They are not interested if the sport stays clean and well organized to protect the athletes and they do not even care of rewarding them to make our passion grow even stronger.

On the other hand we have voluntarily signed a full discharge of liability, so we can only blame ourselves ...Once we get injured we can be left alone by ourselves.I do not know if I will take part in other competitions, but I hope to wear my kimono soon and restart doing what I love to do. I also hope that my experience might be helpful to those who love this sport. "

In addition to the criminal reaction of some organizers against Andrea, this report brings out the insufficient medical coverage for the event.Three nurses and no doctors for 10 tatami, only one ambulance that could not move except in cases of life or death. This is clearly a poor investment, especially if compared to the amount of money paid to take part in the event. Such an happening must provide a medical service of the highest quality. The athletes' safety should be the priority for the organizers.

It is unacceptable that injured athletes are forced to take care of themselves to reach the hospital at their own expenses, or have to argue for what is due to them as a right. In the sports hall, there must be at least one doctor and an organization capable of managing first aid for injured athletes.

This experience should be a warning to all organizers of sports events because they underestimate the aspect of safety and provide a first aid service worth its name. Two bags of ice are not enough!

After this episode, which casts a dark shadow on our sport, the movement of bjj in Italy (and not only) should find the courage to send a letter to the federation and its president to protest against the shameful conduct of the organization.I bring forward an idea that could be picked up from the Italian instructors: to draft a document which collects protection rules and establishes the rights of the athletes. From insurance, to the duties of the organization towards those who are injured, clearness in the rules when stopping the match in case of injury, etc..

Lawyers, doctors and insurers who love and practice this sport are invited to suggest their ideas to write a document that really aims at helping to guarantee the athletes that compete. It would not be a bad idea if the teachers and instructors collected signatures among their students to be sent attached to the letter of protest in order to increase the protection policy of pratictioners.

This blog will highlight any initiative that will step in this direction in the name of our sport and to ensure that in the future the IBJJF will consider the athlete human capital to be enhanced and protected. I hope that this initiative will be welcomed by black belts in Italy.

Jiu-jitsu can be a passion, either for as a sport and a business, always keeping in mind that athletes are a legacy that always needs to be protected.

It would be a contradiction that a non-professional athlete, who pays competitions with his own money and is not paid to compete, getting back nothing in return for the show he or she helps to create with his or her performance, should have fewer rights and protection than those who do it as a job.

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