EDMONTON – It’s not uncommon to see a mixed martial artist suffer a cut or bruising during a bout, but according to a new study, MMA fighters suffer fewer serious injuries than boxers.
The University of Alberta’s Dr. Shelby Karpman led a review of more than a decade’s worth of medical exams from approximately 1,700 fighters in Edmonton.
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Fifty-nine per cent of MMA athletes sustained some form of injury, compared to 50 per cent of boxers, according to the study. However, boxers were more likely to lose consciousness during a bout: seven per cent versus four percent for MMA fighters.
“Mixed martial arts, for the most part we see a lot of bruises, scrapes, cuts, things that need to be stitched up, but we don’t see a whole lot of major injuries that need to be treated,” said Karpman.
Unlike boxing, in MMA, there are more routes to victory than striking your opponent. It’s possible for an MMA athlete to win a bout by judges decision by controlling the fight through wrestling or by submitting an opponent.
Fourteen-year mixed martial artist Victor “The Matrix” Valimaki said that’s why MMA athletes suffer fewer traumatic injuries.
“Well, boxing, the only route to win a fight is from punching, so, you know, you’re gonna aim for the head or aim for the body.”
The study showed boxers were more likely to suffer concussions. But, Karpman said, they’d suffer more concussions if they weren’t trained to take a hit.
“They know it’s coming, so they can train some of the neck muscles and upper body muscles to absorb that, so it’s not all absorbed by the brain,” explained Karpman. “When you look at sports like football and hockey, they don’t train for the hit.”
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The Canadian Medical Association has called for a ban on both MMA and boxing. But some people believe the sports aren’t as bad as they appear.
“What you see on TV is not what happens in real life, and when you put that highlight on there and everyone sees the blood, they just extrapolate that to being the way the sport is,” said Karpman.
Boxers were also more likely to suffer a serious eye injury or to get a medical suspension than MMA athletes, according to the study.
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A 2014 University of Toronto study showed an MMA fighter suffered a traumatic brain injury in almost a third of professional bouts.
Dr. Rob Sutherland, an expert on Behavioral Neuroscience, concluded MMA has a far higher rate for traumatic brain injuries than any other sports.
With files from Su-Ling Goh