Is MMA More Dangerous Than Boxing?

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Is MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) the barbaric sport many people say it is? Fights are excessively violent and dangerous, seems to be the most common argument used to condemn the sport of MMA. It has been labeled as human cock-fighting by politicians like John McCain. As MMA becomes more mainstream, the images of scarred and bloodied fighters are used less and less in marketing campaigns by many MMA promotions and especially by the UFC.

In contrast, boxing is considered by many of the same people to be an American institution. In the boxing ring, fighters are allowed to take thrashings, sometimes round after round, for 10 to 12 rounds. With that in mind, sports medicine practitioners have researched and proven that those repetitive concussions increase the likelihood of brain damage among fighters and NFL players. These arguments both lead to the question: Is MMA more dangerous than Boxing?

bump-head-injuryBoth the US government and boxing’s controlling bodies have made attempts to put into place a number of regulations, such as the Muhammed Ali Boxing Reform Act, which attempts to minimize major injuries in the sport. However, head injuries are still a significant concern in boxing. Unlike boxing, MMA fighters are allowed to use different fighting styles. It is not based on knocking your opponent unconscious. Techniques include grappling holds and strikes to either score a knockout or to get an opponent to submit. Mixed martial arts include one or more of the following fighting styles: judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, kickboxing, karate or variations of these and boxing.

From 1998 to 2006, there were 70 recorded deaths caused by injuries related to the sport of boxing.

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, over 90% of boxers will have sustained a brain injury by the end of their careers. Combine that with eye injuries and dementia which are both effects of being hit in the head. You can understand why boxing is a more dangerous sport. In contrast, injuries suffered by MMA fighters include only limited head trauma, musculo-skeletal stress, joint dislocation and soft tissue trauma.

060610-F-4692S-004A five year study done by the Nevada Athletic Commission on injuries in boxing concluded that the amount of padding used in boxing gloves is directly correlated to the injury rate in boxing, duh!!! The study warned that more padding in gloves meant punches were easier to absorb and a fighter could be hit more times. The cumulative effect of head strikes over the course of a fight most definitely has a traumatic effect on a fighter’s brain and face, again, duh!!! In a typical boxing match, most punches are thrown at the head, since it is next to impossible to achieve a knockout through blows to the body. In contrast, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine published a study of injuries sustained in MMA sanctioned fights. According to their findings, the most common reported injuries were lacerations and upper extremity injuries. The cause of this was by way of holds, throws, and take-downs. In MMA, injuries to the body are the most common injuries reported by fighters to the Nevada Athletic Commission. Among these, the most frequent injuries were broken bones. These types of injuries occur often in the UFC and in the sport mixed martial arts as a whole. But lesser (brain) damaging head injuries such as, eye injuries, face cuts and face lacerations are also prominent in the sport of MMA.

There have been only two recorded deaths in mixed martial arts. A fighter died in 1998 after a fight on an unsanctioned card in Kiev, Ukraine and another died from injuries sustained in a 2007 fight in Houston.

The Johns Hopkins study illustrates that head trauma and cerebral hemorrhages are the No. 1 cause of death in combat sports. Continuing to box after receiving a concussion leads fighters to suffer what doctors call pugilistic dementia. Many times boxers drop to the mat with such force that hitting the deck is what wakes them up. Being neurologically short-circuited or concussed once is sufficient reason to stop a fight. Instead, more often than not, boxers are given the standing-eight count and if they are capable of fighting, the match resumes. A different study pointed out that the average direct hit to the head that a boxer sustains is equivalent to being hit with a 12-pound wooden mallet traveling at around 20 miles per hour. The Johns Hopkins study concludes that boxing is the most dangerous combat sport in America.

The UFC, the flagship of Mixed Martial Arts holds only 3 rounds for non-championship fights and 5 rounds for title fights and only 25% end in a knockout. So the next time you watch an MMA event and a fighter is knocked out, the fight is over. And the next time you watch a boxing event and a fighter is knocked out, and he gets a standing eight count, watch his opponent continue to strike the fighter’s already injured head, for up to rounds 10 -12. You can “safely” say MMA is better than Boxing…