Las Vegas plastic surgeon Frank Stile had a suggestion for Nick Diaz: What if he dug out the gunk and replaced it with the “fresh” tissue of a cadaver? Sure, the procedure had been used for cosmetic purposes, but never for athletic performance.
Diaz, whose entire livelihood is tied up in his ability to withstand violence long enough to dish out his own, agreed. In the nine fights he’s had since, Diaz has barely bled an ounce.
The scalpel is rapidly approaching the steroid, supplement or loaded glove as the new edge.
“Wherever there’s a bony prominence or a sharp ridge on an anatomical area on their skull that creates a sharp edge — on the cheek, the orbital rib on the eyebrow, the bridge of the nose — you’re going to get cut,” Stile says.
The surgery for Diaz meant doing something about his sharp bones.
After marking the borders of the scar, Stile wheeled Diaz into the operating theater and sliced his brow open. All of the scar tissue underneath the epidermis was removed. With the bone revealed, Stile rasped it down with a chisel to a smooth surface.
In place of the scar tissue went a Neoform collagen pledget, made from a cadaver’s sterilized donor tissue. Stile sewed it onto the periosteum, a covering over the bone that acts as an anchor. This time, Stile sewed the wound from the inside out.
“There was a very steep learning curve for both of us,” Stile says. “Fortunately, it worked.”
At the time of the surgery, Diaz’s ring efficacy was questionable. Today, he’s the welterweight champion of Strikeforce.
Eventually, Stile might have new answers for nasal issues: Phil Baroni had Stile reshape a nose already several times broken, allowing him to breathe more easily and keep his jaw from hanging open to get air.
It won’t be tomorrow, or next year, but eventually athletic commissions across the United States will need to determine the validity of using surgery to improve performance. The Association of Boxing Commissions is investigating the issue in its medical committee, which may issue a report this summer.
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