Is MMA More Dangerous Than Football?

By Logan •  Updated: 11/20/21 •  5 min read

There has been much debate about whether mixed martial arts (MMA) is more dangerous than football. Football has seen an increase in criticism due to safety risks, but safety precautions are being taken with MMA. Media outlets have reported that concussions are more common in football than in MMA. However, data is not extensive enough to make a conclusion on which sport involves the most injuries.

So is MMA more dangerous than football? No, football is the most dangerous sport to participate in. Purely because of the safety precautions. MMA fighters are only allowed to continue fighting if they show no symptoms of head trauma and the referee will call the match if they think a fighter is at risk. Football is more dangerous because players are allowed to continue after concussion which can lead to more serious injuries.

I’ll go into more detail about concussion rates in the two sports and what a professional football player turned professional MMA fighter has to say about the dangers of the two sports.

Is MMA More Dangerous Than Football?

Concussion Rates in Football Vs MMA

Recent studies have shown that MMA fighters have a higher risk of brain damage than football players. The average NFL season sees around 140 concussions (those are the reported ones). On average it’s estimated that at least one player in a football team will  receive a concussion in every five games. 

Researchers at the University of Toronto found that around a third of MMA matches ended with head trauma (31.9% of matches). This is much higher than the head trauma rate found in football which is diluted by the amount of players.

So, you are more likely to suffer head trauma from competing in MMA than football. However the safety procedures in MMA are better than football. If an MMA fighter is suspected to have suffered head trauma then tha match is ruled as a TKO (Technical Knockout). There is no such procedure in football as players are expected to carry on playing.

Also the perception of the safety gear worn in football gives the players more confidence to go full throttle into tackles which actually increases the rate of injuries. 

MMA fighters also get medical attention before and after every match and the safety precautions are to the highest level. There has never been a death in the UFC’s 28 year history.

Pro Footballer Turned Pro MMA Fighter Gives His Opinion

There is an argument that football is safer than MMA because you are less likely to be injured. Eryk Anders did an interview with MMA hour and said ‘Football Is Way More Dangerous Than MMA’.

The video for the interview is shown below.

Eryk Anders says that “football is a collision and a car wreck every time we train and play, MMA is much easier on the body” the training for MMA involves sparring once a week and drills for the rest of the time. When he was training for football his knees and back hurt all the time.

It’s not only the training in MMA that’s easier on the body but the diet too, there’s no bulking needed and MMA allows Anders to be at a  more natural weight. When he was playing football he had to ‘eat everything in sight’ including pizza and ice cream, ‘anything to put on bulk’. 

Anders also brought the focus to the concussion rate in football and the aftercare, “If you get knocked out in MMA, it’s just one time, then you get up, you take a couple of months off, let your body heal. In football, you may not get knocked out, but you’re constantly getting hit, getting hit, getting hit, especially if you play that D line, linebacker, running back, offensive position. Every play it’s a collision and your body doesn’t appreciate that.

You see guys at 30 years old, their career is done because of all the hits, all the contact. Just look at the shelf life of the average NFL player, there to five years if you’re lucky; MMA guys, they can play for much longer as long as they’re not one of those guys who play with their hands down and just chuck for the fences and take it to give it.”

I think from this that although it’s controversial it’s clear that football is more dangerous than MMA. Because MMA is a combat sport there is a higher safety element and self care is a priority.

Average Career Of Footballer Vs MMA Fighter

Anders hit on an interesting point that I want to look into a bit further, the average careers of footballers and MMA fighters. 

After looking at the statistics the average career of an NFL player is 3.3 years, with the offensive players averaging around 2.8 years and quarterbacks and kickers averaging 4.7 years.

The average MMA fighter’s career is about 12.5 years before retiring at an average age of 41.

This contrast is shocking and shows that MMA must be easier on the body for professionals to have a career that’s almost 4 times longer than footballers.

Final Thoughts

Although on the face of it MMA would seem like it’s more dangerous, it’s been shown that the training and regime of MMA fighters is much easier on the body than footballers. The safety procedures in MMA are much higher than in football and self care in MMA is at the forefront. 

It can be concluded that football is more dangerous than MMA, the average career of a football player is 3.3 years whilst an MMA fighter on average has a career of 12.5 years.


Hi, I've been an avid MMA fan all my life. I've been training in martial arts for the last 5 years and wanted to share some of the tips and tricks that I've picked up along the way to help to aspiring martial artists get started.

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