Ex-boxer wins payout after scan failed to detect brain aneurysm

Ex-boxing champion wins payout after routine scan failed to a detect brain aneurysm that nearly killed him when he was punched by Nathan Cleverly in a sparring match months later

  • Darren McDermott was given the green light to box following annual screening 
  • He was sparring with champion boxer Nathan Cleverly when aneurysm ruptured
  • Father-of-two, 39, suffers memory loss, depression and a ‘change in character’

Darren McDermott has been awarded damages after a private screening company failed to spot the brain aneurysm

A former boxing champion has won damages after a potentially fatal brain aneurysm was missed on his annual screening and later ruptured.     

Darren McDermott was given the all clear and relicensed to box following his British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) mandated annual medical and MRI scan in March 2010.

Five months later, he was sparring with former two-time world light-heavyweight champion boxer Nathan Cleverly when the undetected aneurysm ruptured as he received a blow to the head.

The father-of-two from Dudley, West Midlands, was ‘turned away from A&E three times in 10 days’ as he was told he simply had concussion.

But nearly two weeks later a scan revealed a bleed on the brain and he was rushed to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, for emergency surgery where doctors discovered the huge aneurysm when they removed some of his skull. 

Mr McDermott, who was known as the ‘Black Country Bodysnatcher’, has been left with life-changing brain damage which ended his career. 

The 39-year-old struggles with memory loss and depression and is cared for by his wife.

Darren was punched in the head during a sparring match against two-time world light-heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly in August 2010

InHealth, the company appointed to carry out the scan, has now admitted liability and agreed to pay Darren and his wife Claire an undisclosed settlement

Mr McDermott’s trainer Dean Powell took him to Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil the day of the knockout punch on August 26 but Darren claims he was kept under observation overnight then discharged without treatment the following day.

On September 3, he was sleeping all the time and repeating himself so his wife Claire rushed him to Russell’s Hall hospital in Dudley.

Claire claims doctors diagnosed him with a concussion and sent him home.

Still in pain and vomiting violently, he returned to hospital later the same night where Claire insisted her husband needed a brain scan.

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Mr McDermott was allegedly told he was ‘not an emergency’ and would have to wait overnight but the following morning was given the crushing news he had bleeding on the brain.

He was rushed to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital and underwent a five hour operation to stop the bleed on his brain and needed 80 staples in his skull.

InHealth, the company appointed to carry out the scan, has now admitted liability and agreed to pay Darren and his wife Claire an undisclosed settlement.

Mr McDermott said: ‘As I was punched, it felt like someone was twisting a screwdriver around inside my head. The feeling was not like any other sensation I had experienced before.

‘I saw blood coming down my eyes, but when I looked in the mirror there was nothing there. It freaked me out and I knew something was wrong.’  

Mr McDermott has now set up the Brooklands Amateur Boxing Club in Dudley, which has more than 100 members


An aneurysm is a bulge in a blood vessel caused by a weakness in the blood vessel wall, usually where it branches.

As blood passes through the weakened blood vessel, the blood pressure causes a small area to bulge outwards like a balloon.

Most brain aneurysms only cause noticeable symptoms if they burst (rupture).

This leads to an extremely serious condition known as a subarachnoid haemorrhage, where bleeding caused by the ruptured aneurysm can cause extensive brain damage.

About three in five people who have a subarachnoid haemorrhage die within two weeks. Half of those who survive are left with severe brain damage and disability. 

Source: NHS 

He added: ‘When the doctors told me I could never box again I felt like my arms and legs had been chopped off. Boxing was everything to me.

‘The last eight years have been a real struggle as my family tried to come to terms with how our lives had changed.

‘Claire is not only my wife, she is more like my personal assistant now. I struggle with everyday tasks such as remembering where I have left my car, constantly losing things and even what colour my toothbrush is.

‘I hold nothing against Nathan, he is blameless in this. I should not have been put at risk by being allowed to continue fighting.’

Mrs McDermott added: ‘It’s totally changed Darren’s life and his character. Now, he hates being centre of attention. It’s like he’s a different person.

‘He’ll drive down the road to the gym and forget he’s left the car outside. He’s forgotten to pick my son up from school three times.

‘The worst thing really is that his confidence has suffered. He’s got very bad memory loss and his appearance has changed.

‘People need to realise what has happened to him. He looks physically fine now but people don’t understand the impact it’s had.

‘It’s been heartbreaking. I didn’t know if our marriage would survive. He’s always been the strong but now I do everything. I’ve been very lucky though because I’ve had a lot of support from people.’

The father-of-two said: ‘The last eight years have been a real struggle as my family tried to come to terms with how our lives had changed’

Mr McDermott pictured with his belts before the brain injury which ended his career

A spokesman for Cwm Taf Health Board, which runs the Prince Charles Hospital, said they could not comment on individual cases. No-one was available for comment from InHealth.

Thomas Riis-Bristow, expert medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: ‘If Darren’s aneurysm had been detected as it should have been during his annual MRI re-licensing scan, the BBBoC would have immediately and indefinitely suspended his professional boxing licence and an appropriate medical plan could have been put in place to treat the aneurysm before it got to a more dangerous stage.

‘Darren would certainly not have sparred and so he would not have suffered his traumatic brain haemorrhage, two subsequent invasive open brain surgeries and would not have suffered the permanent brain injury he lives with today.’ 

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