The combat, contact sport of the Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA, implements various disciplines including judo, karate, kickboxing, and wrestling. Persons participating in a match, wear little protective gear.
Also known as cage fighting or ultimate fighting, the athletes involved have only one objective, win the match, by knockout, technical knockout or opponent submission. Fighters utilize grappling moves, which includes chokeholds, or strikes, consisting of kicks, kneeing or punches, to overcome an adversary. Since 2007, the sport has seen at least two fatalities as a direct result of traumatic brain injury (TBI).
MMA and TBI
Due to the seemingly barbaric violence of the sport, the Canadian Medical Association called for a ban on MMA. Several US states and legislators have already banned the sport. From 2001 to 2004, John Hopkins Medical University studied 171 MMA matches, exploring the ratio and extent of injury associated with the sport. 68.6% of the fighters received varying degrees of trauma, from lacerations to fractures of the eye, ear, face, jaw and nose because of blunt force. Fifty-four percent of the time, fighters won matches because of a technical knockout.
Actions Contributing to TBI
Traumatic brain injury occurs because of acceleration/deceleration of the head and neck, and blunt force trauma. It can also occur due to compressive asphyxiation, when the body is crushed and the lungs cannot deliver oxygen to the brain. Acceleration/deceleration is the whiplash effect, which occurs due to a blow to the head or the force of a body slammed against an immovable object. This action stretches and tears soft tissue, which includes brain cells and fragile blood vessels resulting in a wide variety of symptoms including hemorrhage.
Fighters experience blunt force trauma from direct blows to the head, causing the brain to jostle within the skull or the brain colliding with the skull resulting in soft tissue damage. Compressive asphyxiation occurs from facial, neck or chest compression. This action renders an individual unconscious due to oxygen deprivation, but also results in immediate death of brain cells.
Lasting Effects of TBI
Researchers understand that traumatic brain injury, whether mild or severe, has accumulative effects and may result in a condition known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Even mild concussions, when fighters experience no loss of consciousness, overtime, cause the formation of lesions on the surface of the brain.
MMA proponents argue that athletes involved in the sport receive less head trauma than that endured by boxers. However, cumulative injuries begin during the hours involved in sparring and training, amateur matches and professional fights.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy presents a wide array of permanent disabilities. The condition has been associated with the development of ALS, varying forms of dementia and Parkinson’s disease. The effects of severe or chronic TBI can be a life sentence for athletes and families.
If you or someone you love has suffered a traumatic brain injury, contact our office so that we may help you learn your legal rights for compensation.