A feat too far for Haye?

Injuries to the feet of prominent athletes have caused some high-profile headlines over the last few years. In the UK, most football fans will remember the National crisis over David Beckham and Wayne Rooney who both had metatarsal injuries prior to important International football tournaments.

There was yet another cause for much discussion and debate following the World Heavyweight Championship boxing clash at the weekend between Wladamir Klitschko and David Haye in Hamburg, when Haye implicated a recent foot injury in his downfall.

Haye mentioned that he had sustained an injury to his right little toe approximately three weeks prior to the fight which had interfered with his preparation, causing him to stop his pre-fight sparring. He also said that he had had a local anaesthetic injection just before the clash with Klitchsko, which was the reason for his late entry to the ring on the night. Haye told viewers that the toe injury had caused him to have problems pushing off in order to land his right hand punches, which he thought had possibly affected the outcome of the fight.

The issue was highighted by Haye himself the day after the fight on Twitter, when he posted this picture taken by himself of his feet, showing the external appearance of the alleged injury to his right little toe. This suggests a fracture of the proximal phalanx, but I have not seen an x-ray to confirm this. He was also to show off his injured toe at the post-fight press conference.

Perhaps predictably, Haye’s claims were met with derision by many prominent people involved in the sport including boxers and journalists who thought that he was making excuses for his ineffective performance in the fight. Klitschko himself thought that Haye had opened himself to being criticised as a ‘sore loser,’ and when showed the offending toe by Haye laughed saying ‘it’s a bee sting.’ However, some individuals, notably including the former World Heavyweight Champion UK boxer Frank Bruno, stated that they felt that the injury would have significantly hampered Haye during the fight and that he should not have fought.

The debate as to whether or not Haye’s injury affected the outcome of the fight rests largely on an understanding of the biomechanics of boxing, including the effect of the injury on posture and mobility around the ring, plus the effect on the delivery of punches and their power, together with an understanding of the principle of the kinetic chain. Torsion and ground reaction forces are important factors to consider. Haye claimed that he was unable to ‘explode off my foot with the Hayemaker’ (right-handed power punch), which would imply a problem most likely with initially shifting his weight towards the front and lateral border of his right foot whilst in a semi-crouching position in preparation to push forwards and upwards through the medial border of the right foot whilst throwing a full right-handed punch.

However, it is perhaps hard to imagine why it was this particular position which would have caused most of his problems as he would be required to adopt very similar positions whilst manouvering around the ring and dodging and weaving during defensive manouvres. The former Liverpool Football Club Physiotherapist, Mark Leather, wrote in the Mail Online that he felt that ‘the biomechanics of his (Haye’s) argument do not stand up.’  However, I could find nothing on the effect of toe injuries on the biomechanics of boxing and on performance in the literature, and nothing specifically on foot biomechanics as related to performance in boxing.

There are, of course, other considerations pertaining to Haye’s injury, for example the effectiveness of local anaesthetics and protective orthoses. Psychological factors must also be considered, including the effect on the performance of a boxer entering the ring for a World Heavyweight Championship fight with an injury.

At least Haye has a sense of humour about it all. Having been subjected to derision by many in the media and on Twitter, he had the ability to make a few quips, claiming to have been offered a movie role in next year’s remake of ‘Scarface’ playing Toe-ny Montana!

What do you think? Was Haye making excuses, or do you think that he had a point? CJSM would love to hear your views.

(image taken by David Haye and posted on Twitter here)

About Chris Hughes
Associate Editor, Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine

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