The fight between Edson Barboza and Shane Burgos at UFC 262 this weekend took a slightly unusual turn when, after being punched twice by Barboza, Burgos appeared to be fine and planning his next strike - before appearing to have a delayed reaction to his opponent's hits and blacking out a full 5 seconds later.
In a new video on his YouTube channel, physical medicine and rehab expert Dr. Brian Sutterer provides some clarification on what exactly happened during that delay.
"Those punches were certainly hard enough to cause a knockout," he says. "But Burgos doesn't even look fazed... It doesn't seem like it's affected him at all, until we get down to nearly 5 seconds later, when he starts to move backwards and stumbles, and then he ultimately went down. This is a perfect example of why concussions can be so tricky, because not everybody responds to them the exact same way."
Concussion occurs, Sutterer explains, when the brain hits the inside of the skull as a result of sudden impact or trauma, causing a cumulative cascade of events which can lead to loss of consciousness. "Most of the time this takes place very quickly," he says. "A severe delayed response is not as common."
This cascade includes damage to nerves and a massive release of neurotransmitters like dopamine. And while in many instances that K.O. can be immediately, there is no specific medical reason unique Burgos that would explain the delay, or why it took him longer to lose consciousness. "A knockout or concussion is not a single 'boom, it happened' like a broken bone or a torn ACL," says Sutterer. "It's this series of events which usually happen more quickly, but can be delayed, and every case is individually different."
"There's a lot going on within the cells of the brain, the electrical charges within those cells, the neurochemicals that are sending signals back and forth," he adds. "It's a complex process in terms of what's actually going on in the brain when someone gets knocked out."
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