Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a combat sport that includes wrestling, judo, boxing, kickboxing and other grappling techniques. As it has evolved over the past few decades, the sheer number of techniques combined with the introduction of new competitors creating their own styles poses an increased risk for injury. This is especially true when people who are not trained or experienced in martial arts enter the ring to test their skills against veteran MMA fighters.
Is MMA Dangerous? – The short answer is YES. Physical fighting is dangerous. There is risk of bruises, broken bones, and concussions. However that is with competition MMA, training MMA is relatively safe and a good workout.
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a sport that has been growing in popularity over the last few years. Due to the high physical injuries sustained by MMA fighters there is a growing uncertainty about whether this sport is actually worth all the risks. One main concern is brain injury, which can lead to memory loss and behavior problems similar to Alzheimer’s disease.
This debate has been going on for years, so I have researched it in more depth and here is what I’ve found.
How Dangerous is MMA Training?
Some people train in MMA to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle and reap the benefits of increased fitness and stamina. Others train in MMA because they want to become one of the world’s best fighters. BUT, there are risks associated with all forms of training in MMA. Most injuries sustained in training are minor while some are more serious.
MMA is a sport that combines elements of boxing, wrestling, judo, karate, jiu-jitsu, kickboxing and more. It’s not an easy sport to train for though, with competitors risking serious injury due to the high intensity training methods. There are some injuries that are more common than others when it comes to MMA training.
There are a lot of mixed opinions among the medical community about fighting and MMA training. Some say that fighting just isn’t worth the risks, while others argue that fighting is healthy and teaches the lessons of life to young people. One study showed that of the 87% of participants who suffered injury during the course of their training, 44% reported that they had sustained injuries to their head or neck.
You can sign up to a safe style of MMA training if you wish that is more focused on the physical benefits than actual combat. Different schools and gyms may put more emphasis on safety than others, so make sure that you are satisfied with the safety provisions that your gym provides.
Protective Gear Is Required
Students are required to wear the following gear when training:
- Full Padded Boxing Gloves
- Groin Cup
- Shin Pads
When in training students hit with 50% or less power, so they may focus on technique. Tagging the opponent rather than destroying them.
MMA training is not like the brutal fights you see on TV. You may end up bruised after sparring but no more than any other full-contact sport such as football or hockey.
How Dangerous is an MMA Competition?
MMA competition fighting is way more dangerous than MMA training, mainly because it’s one on one combat. The goal of the fighters is to knock out the opponent or get them to submit.
With MMA being a full contact sport, it is not uncommon for injuries to occur during these competitions. Most injuries are minor but in extreme cases some can be life-threatening. Due to the high risk of injury, athletes should always be well trained and understand the risks when participating in an MMA event.
A study titled the Incidence of Injury in Professional Mixed Martial Arts Competitions found that over 171 fights with 220 different fighters there were a total of 96 injuries to 78 fighters. Out of the 171 MMA fights 69 of them ended with at least one injured athlete, that’s 40.3% of all fights.
The most common injuries found in the study were facial lacerations which accounted for a huge 47.9% of all the injuries from the MMA fights, the next most common was hand injury (13.5%), nose injury (10.4%), and eye injury (8.3%).
The study also found that the older a fighter was then the more prone to injury they were. However, the injuries sustained from MMA competitions are in keeping with other combat sports.
The MMA fights also had less knockout victories than boxing so this could mean that MMA fighting could be less damaging to the brain than boxing in the long run.
There are rules and regulations when it comes to MMA competitions that do help to keep the sport safer.
Each round in an MMA competition fight is five (5) minutes long. The fight may have up to five (5) rounds, for a total of twenty-five (25) minutes. The competition may not exceed twenty-five 25 minutes. There is a one (1) minute rest between rounds.
There is an extensive list of fouls consisting of dirty fighting techniques such as biting, groin hits, eye-gouging, and hair-pulling. Strikes to the spine, back of the head, or throat strikes of any kind are not allowed. No stomping on your opponent once he is already on the ground.
What Are Potential MMA Injuries?
Just like any full-contact sport, injuries are going to happen. Here are the most common injuries you can get when you participate in MMA training or competition.
Facial lacerations are the most common injuries obtained from competitions, most of the time they look worse than what they are and will heal in time.
Most bruising happens when small blood vessels near the skin’s surface are broken by the force of an impact of a hit or injury, usually on the legs and arms. Bruising is inevitable when training or competing in MMA.
Muscle injuries like an ACL tear can happen to any athlete. Some muscle injuries may require surgery. Muscle injuries are common in MMA fighting.
Strains and sprains are common injuries in any sport. The risk to an MMA fighter is about the same as an athlete in any other sport.
Although unlikely during training due to the padding and light sparring techniques, broken bones still happen. Broken bones are most common in the arms, hands, ribs, legs, and feet.
Because MMA fighters suffer many blows to the head during training and competition, there is always the risk of permanent brain damage.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is one of the most common forms of brain damage related to combat sports. Fighters with CTE experience symptoms of aggression, confusion, depression, and memory loss.
According to the CDC, a concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI), caused by a jolt, blow or bump to the head. It could also be caused by a hit to the body which results in rapid head and brain movement. This is a possibility when competing MMA and if you regularly compete then you will likely get a concussion at least once.
In sanctioned MMA bouts, there have only been seven deaths over the years, and nine deaths in unsanctioned bouts. While extremely rare in MMA competition fighting, it is important to know that death is a risk.
How Can I Prevent MMA Injuries?
You can prevent MMA injuries by doing a few simple activities.
There is no right way to warm up. You want to raise your heart rate slightly. You can accomplish this by doing some large muscle movements. Specifically, you want to warm up the muscles you know you are going to be working. Try a combination of the following:
- Arm circles
- High Knees
- Jumping Jacks
- Sumo Squats
Cooling down from a high-intensity workout helps your body gradually return to a normal heart rate. Cooling down reduces dizziness, regulates blood flow, and relaxes the muscles. There is no special way to cool down. If you are moving fast simply reduce your speed. Whatever you are doing, just slow down your movements until your heart rate returns to normal.
Practice Proper Form
Proper form is essential for avoiding injury. An improper punch or kick could cause a pulled muscle or more serious injury, and most likely to you rather than your opponent.
Talk to Your Coach
It is important to communicate with your coach immediately if you have a safety concern or an injury. Delayed treatment could result in an even greater injury.
Is MMA Dangerous? – Final Thoughts
MMA is a combat sport and as a result is dangerous. However, you are a lot less likely to get a serious injury whilst just training in MMA, it’s when you start to compete that you have a higher risk of injury.
Remember if you can always ‘shop around’ different MMA gyms and find one that you are comfortable with.