March 28, 2014

Head Trauma in Mixed Martial Arts - American Journal of Sports Medicine

Proponents of mixed martial arts (MMA) have long claimed it safe"er" then boxing and kickboxing due to the number of different ways one could win a match, not just percussive striking to the cranium.  That has always been the rub though, safer does not mean it is safe!  Obviously a number of factors and variables come into play with such a broad subject, but this is the first (to the best of my knowledge) academic study on head trauma in MMA. 

Just this week the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine released an article entitled "Head Trauma in Mixed Martial Arts" in their journal American Journal of Sports Medicine.  Using a descriptive epidemiology study, the doctors surveyed over 840 UFC matches between the years of 2006 and 2012 (this is notable as the UFC has been fully compliant with regulations and rules by this stage of their development ie. must wear 4oz gloves / banning of soccer kicks and stomps to the head etc.).  Thanks to my teacher Meynard for turning me onto this article.

The results are quite interesting, click here to read the entire abstract.  
Some serious food for thought for both professionals and hobbyists alike.  Lots of information coming to light regarding just how fragile our brain really is.  Below is the conclusion of the study:

Conclusion: Rates of KOs and TKOs in MMA are higher than previously reported rates in other combative and contact sports. Public health authorities and physicians should be cognizant of the rates and mechanisms of head trauma. Preventive measures to lessen the risks of head trauma for those who elect to participate in MMA are described.


  1. One thing I'd like to see expanded upon is the linkage between (T)KO and brain injury. I absolutely believe there is a linkage, but this study is being reported/sensationalized to push MMA back into the extreme bloodsport image it had in the 90s.

    The researchers looked at scorecards and fight video... which are not the same as looking at medical charts, X-rays, MRIs, CTs. To report that (T)KO's occur at a higher rate than advertised is definitely a reasonable conclusion to draw out of this study; based on their methods, I think they need to do a deeper dive into the medical impacts of these (T)KO finishes to fully vet out the risk to the athlete.

    1. One does not need an MRI to see a KO. This is not a report on the amount/kind of brain damage. Just simply that it is occurring whereas prior many would profess the "safety" of the sport comparatively. Nothing sensational here, just facts bro.