Many sports determine the eligibility of epileptic players based on individual factors (like time since last seizures), but professional mixed martial arts is not one of them. Epileptic patients are not permitted to fight MMA.
Mixed martial arts regulations are determined by individual organizations and on a state-by-state basis. Essentially, whether an epileptic individual can fight MMA depends on location. Practically, however, professional MMA organizations do not allow individuals with epilepsy to fight due to liability issues.
Can Epileptics Do MMA?
Before a participant is deemed eligible to participate in an MMA fight, professional mixed martial arts organizations require them to undergo pre-licensure jurisdiction-governed examinations. During this pre-licensure exam, fighters MUST disclose all medical conditions and share their medical history with the doctor – including any history of seizures or epilepsy.
There are two main reasons why this disclosure is necessary – the players’ health and the liability of the professional sports organization.
Any traumatic brain injury has the potential to cause a seizure. Individuals with epilepsy already have an increased chance of experiencing seizures, but that chance increases when taking part in a sport that poses a risk of traumatic brain injury.
Professional organizations and the medical community discourage individuals with epilepsy from participating in activities that pose a risk of traumatic brain injury because it only increases their chances of experiencing a seizure.
Professional MMA organizations must also consider their liability when taking on new participants. These organizations must carry specific types of insurance to hold fights. These insurance types include participant accident insurance coverage and excess fighter coverage. Insurance agencies are highly unlikely to provide coverage to an organization when there is an increased chance of a claim against a policy. Without insurance, a professional organization cannot hold fights.
What Sports Can You Play With Epilepsy?
Although MMA fights are off the table for individuals with epilepsy, many sports are an option for those prone to seizures so long as the correct safety precautions are in place. For example, participants should wear protective equipment or have a “buddy” system in place.
Wearing the correct protective equipment is necessary for anyone playing a sport, and that safety equipment may also include a helmet for those with epilepsy.
The buddy system is necessary for some sports and involves only participating when a “buddy” is available to help if needed. For example, swimming requires a buddy in case an individual has a seizure in the water.
These sports include:
Cycling (with the correct protective equipment.)
Individuals with epilepsy generally are not permitted to participate in professional sports where there is a chance of head trauma. This rule is in place to protect the health of participants of the sport, but also so that the professional organization may maintain insurance coverage – a must for a sport like MMA!