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Injuries Experienced by the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes

Category:
Skill Development

In 2017, a group of scientists, namely Andrew R. Jensen, MD, MBE; Robert C. Maciel, BS, MS; Frank A. Petrigliano, MD; John P. Rodriguez, MD; and Adam G. Brooks, MD, published a study titled 'Injuries Sustained by the Mixed Martial Arts Athlete'.

The study focuses on the injuries sustained by mixed martial arts (MMA) athletes, encompassing a review of relevant publications from 1980 through 2015. MMA, a combat sport that brings together athletes from various martial art disciplines, has seen a surge in popularity, leading to an increase in injuries. The majority of studies have concentrated on injuries sustained during competition, with an incidence ranging from 22.9 to 28.6 per 100 fight-participations. Striking-predominant disciplines like boxing and Muay Thai exhibit high rates of head and facial injuries, while submission-predominant disciplines like Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo demonstrate high rates of joint injuries. Moreover, the document underlines the scarcity of evidence concerning injuries sustained during training and among specific demographics such as adolescents and women.

Understanding the Prevalence of Injuries in MMA

The term "martial art" refers to fighting techniques used in combat sports, including disciplines such as boxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, karate, and wrestling. MMA, a combat sport, gained popularity in the United States in the early 20th century, with the establishment of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 1993. Over the past 15 years, MMA has become one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States, attracting participation from both amateurs and professionals, including adolescents. The study emphasizes the need for further research on injuries sustained during training and among specific populations, as well as the importance of understanding the injury patterns across different martial art styles.

The study presents a comprehensive assessment of injuries in MMA athletes, shedding light on the prevalence of injuries during both competition and training. It provides valuable insights into the distinct injury profiles associated with different martial art disciplines, emphasizing the need for further research to understand and prevent injuries in this growing sport. The document also highlights the potential long-term health implications of MMA participation, including head trauma, skin infections, and the impact of extreme weight loss practices. Additionally, it underscores the importance of clinical recommendations, such as understanding the injury patterns in different martial art disciplines, and the need for preventive measures to mitigate the risk of injuries among MMA athletes.

What are the types and frequencies of injuries sustained by mixed martial arts (MMA) athletes during competition?

During competition, mixed martial arts (MMA) athletes sustain various types of injuries at different frequencies. A 7-year retrospective study found an incidence of 23.7 injuries per 100 fight-participations, with lacerations being the most common injury type (51%). Another study reported a composite injury rate during MMA competition of 22.9 per 100 athlete-exposures, with the most frequently injured regions being the head/face (66.8%-78.0%) followed by the wrist/hand (6.0%-12.0%). Skin lacerations were the most frequent injury type at 36.7% to 59.4%, while fractures accounted for 7.4% to 43.4% and concussions for 3.8% to 20.4% of competition injuries. Additionally, striking-predominant disciplines such as boxing, karate, and Muay Thai have high rates of head and facial injuries, while submission-predominant disciplines such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, and wrestling have high rates of joint injuries. These findings highlight the diverse and significant injury patterns experienced by MMA athletes during competition.

Injuries Sustained by the Mixed Martial Arts Athlete study table

What are the injury rates and types associated with striking-predominant disciplines in MMA, such as boxing, karate, and Muay Thai?

The injury rates and types associated with striking-predominant disciplines in MMA, such as boxing, karate, and Muay Thai, are significant. Studies have shown that these disciplines have high rates of head and facial injuries during competition, with head and facial injuries comprising between 57.8% and 70% of competition injuries in these athletes. The most frequent types of injuries in these striking-predominant disciplines are facial abrasions, facial fractures (e.g., nose), periorbital injuries, and concussions. Additionally, skin lacerations are the most frequent injury type, accounting for 36.7% to 59.4% of injuries, while fractures account for 7.4% to 43.4%, and concussions for 3.8% to 20.4% of competition injuries. These findings highlight the significant risk of head and facial injuries associated with striking-predominant disciplines in MMA.

What is the prevalence of training injuries in MMA athletes compared to competition injuries?

The prevalence of training injuries in MMA athletes is significantly higher than competition injuries. Studies have shown that the majority of combat sport athletes' injuries, including those in MMA, occur during training. A retrospective study of 620 karate athletes in Iran found that 90% of injuries were sustained in training, and a study of 152 Australian taekwondo athletes found that 81.5% of their injuries occurred during training. Additionally, a comprehensive study of MMA training injuries revealed that 77.9% of injuries had been sustained during training, as opposed to 22.1% during competition in 55 athletes over the preceding year. These findings indicate that training injuries outnumber competition injuries by a ratio of 4 to 1. It is important to address the burden of training injuries and focus on identifying risk factors and prevention strategies to reduce the prevalence of injuries sustained during training in MMA athletes.

Injuries Sustained by the Mixed Martial Arts Athlete study table

What are the potential risks associated with rapid weight loss practices in MMA?

Rapid weight loss practices in MMA pose potential risks to athletes. Athletes may engage in potentially dangerous weight loss behaviors, such as dehydration, to lose water weight before a fight. This can lead to severe dehydration, as indicated by urine-specific gravity levels in 39% of athletes, resulting in biochemical and hormonal alterations. Rapid weight loss practices can have detrimental effects on an athlete's health, including dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and hormonal disruptions. These practices can also impact an athlete's performance and overall well-being, underscoring the importance of addressing and regulating weight management practices in MMA to ensure athlete safety and health.

Further reading: Comparison of injuries experienced by Shotokan karate, Olympic-style tae kwon do, aikido, kung fu, and tai chi practitioners.

For one thing, Judo in reality is not a mere sport or game. I regard it as a principle of life, art and science. In fact, it is a means for personal cultural attainment.
Kano Jigoro