University of Toronto researchers have determined that mixed martial arts fighters suffer a traumatic brain injury in almost a third of their professional bouts, which is greater than the rate of such injuries in hockey, football or even boxing.
The researchers analyzed seven years of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) scorecards as well as watching videotape of bouts. They concluded that the most dangerous aspect of the fight are the repeated blows to the head, which are delivered after the fighter has or is about to lose consciousness.
“This draws attention to the fact that relevant questions need to be asked of a sport for which the objective at some level is to knock them out,” Michael Hutchison, a U of T kinesiology professor and lead author, told the media. “The [knocked out] person is rendered unable to defend themselves, and then they’re getting multiple strikes to their head. That’s probably not good for one’s health.”
The researchers detected an average of 6.4 knockouts per athlete for every 100 fights, or “athlete exposures.” When the multiple-strike TKOs were added, the total of suspected brain injuries climbed to 15.9 per athlete per 100 bouts, or one concussion-like injury in 32 percent of the matches. This compares to rates, found in other studies, of 4.9 concussions per 100 athlete exposures in boxing, 2.2 per 100 in hockey and 8.08 per 100 in football, according to the study.
Photo by Tim Hipps