It seems obvious that there are quite a few injuries in combat sports. However, the number of injuries and the types of injuries have a lot to do with the type of combat sport. Statistically speaking, Mixed Martial Arts has a higher injury rate than any other sport at an average of around 250 injuries per 1,000 fights. This is a high number, especially compared to the safest combat sport, Jiu-Jitsu, with just 9.2 injuries per 1,000 matches. We will also look at the other top contenders for the most injuries in combat sports like boxing, contact martial arts, and Judo. Read on to learn more from The Fight Doctors experts.
Mixed Martial Arts (250 per 1,000 fights)
As mentioned above, MMA fighters are more prone to injury than any other combat sport participants, averaging around 250 injuries per 1,000 competitions. Of course, the sheer nature of the sport to knock out or subdue your opponent lends itself to injury. A study in 2015 showed these are the most common injuries experienced by MMA fighters.
One of the main reasons for the arm being the most commonly injured is the use of the Arm Bar. This is a common move to elicit a submission from the opponent and can cause hyperextension of the elbow joint. In the number two position is a neck injury, which is often caused by the use of the Triangle Choke in order to elicit submission. This move is known to cause herniated discs, cervical radiculopathy, vertebral fractures, and various neck muscle strains.
Boxing (171 per 1,000 fights)
With a full-contact sport designed to deliver blows to the opponent, injuries are commonplace. When it comes to boxing, the top five injuries are:
- Cut, bruises, and lacerations
- Boxer’s fracture
- Carpal bossing
- Shoulder dislocation
Lacerations and other cuts to the face are the most common. However, they could include more serious injuries such as nasal fractures, blowout fractures, hematomas, and dental injuries.
Boxer’s fracture is a fracture that occurs in the metacarpal bones. These are the bones in your hand that run from the wrist and connect the wrist with the fingers. Usually, the damage is sustained to the bones below the ring and little fingers, although it can also occur in the other metacarpal bones.
Another common injury that is shared with MMA fighters is that of a concussion. This is where the fighter is hit so hard that the brain slams into the inside of the skull. It is a mistake to think that concussions only occur when a fighter is knocked out. A fighter can suffer a concussion and still be awake, though they may be dazed. It is crucially important for a fighter to get the proper diagnosis and rest after a concussion. During this period of healing, the brain is in an extremely vulnerable state. If the fighter were to suffer another blow to the head while still healing from the concussion, it could lead to permanent brain damage.
Contact Martial Arts (between 21 and 139 per 1,000 fights)
Depending on the martial art discipline (karate, taekwondo), the injury rate is between 21 and 139 injuries per 1,000 competitions. Among the top injuries are:
- Cuts, scrapes, and bruises
- Cauliflower ear
- Hamstring injuries
- Groin injuries
- Stress fractures
Cauliflower Ear happens whenever there is severe blunt trauma to the ear. As the ear heals, it may fold into itself and shrivel up — causing it to look like a cauliflower. This is a painful injury and can result in headaches and a temporary loss of hearing. UFC fight Randy Couture is well-known for having cauliflower ear.
Because many contact martial arts incorporate kicking as one of their central techniques, groin strain is common. Groin strain occurs when there is a tear or rupture to the groin muscle. This will be followed by groin tenderness or pain, tightness, and muscle spasms.
Another common injury because of the kicks in contact martial arts is hamstring injuries. This is a pull or tear in the hamstring located in the back of the thigh. Both groin strains and hamstring injuries can be lessened by proper warmup and stretching exercises before a competition.
Judo (48.54 per 1,000 fights)
Because of how Judo is executed, the knees and shoulders take the biggest beating in a match. The physical exertion it takes to grab and throw your opponent to the ground can cause many injuries such as:
- ACL injury
- Collateral ligament injury
- Meniscus injury
- AC-joint injury
- Rotator cuff injury
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Dislocated elbow
Most of these injuries are to the tendons and meniscus located in the shoulder, elbow, or knee joints. But, of course, back and neck injuries are also common, not only from flipping your opponent to the ground but also from the impact when the body hits the canvas.
Keep Injuries to a Minimum at The Fight Doctors
We at The Fight Doctors believe that the first step in reducing injuries in the ring is to have a proper pre-fight exam done by a physician familiar with combat fighters and knows what to look for. To that end, all of the physicians at The Fight Doctors have an intimate knowledge of the combat fighting world, and providing examinations for fighters is our specialty. This is why we offer exam packages specifically for combat fighters. We want to use our specific expertise to get you the care you need to be ready for the big fight. So book an appointment with The Fight Doctors today!
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