Recent Study Shows MMA Fighters More Prone To Head Injuries

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COLUMBIA - The American Journal of Sports Medicine released a study that Mixed Martial Arts fighters are now more prone to head injuries than other contact sports.

Results show about 32 percent of fights end with a head injury, which is higher than previously reported rates in other combative and contact sports. The study said in any MMA fight the average time between a knockout strike and match stoppage was 3.5 seconds, leaving the losing fighter with 2.6 additional strikes after the knockout.

Research suggests the reason could be due to increased popularity and participation among youth. Ambition Combat and Fitness, a gym in Columbia, said it hasn't seen many head injuries.

"There's some from time to time but there's very few. I've been teaching since 2008, and we've only had one head injury, maybe two, because of a broken nose, but other than that, we've been pretty successful at keeping them to a minimum," owner Curtis Bruce said.

The trainers at this gym make fighters wear protective gear to prevent head and other injuries. Knee pads, shin pads, head gear and lighter boxing gloves are necessary when training at Ambition.

"We also never go full contact, we make sure to control the pace. With fighters there's a natural tendency for things to get out of hand, so it's about keeping a good pace," fighter and trainer James Larson said.

Fighters KOMU 8 News spoke to said using protective gear and leaving the real fighting for the match prevents head injuries 100 percent of the time.

Local fighters also said they think an increase in younger people participating may have affected the study.

"I think it's just like Tae Kwon Do. It's really popular among youth because they wear all the protective gear, and they think it's fine. We do the same thing in kid's MMA, we probably have more protective gear that's thicker, padded and more well made. It's actually better than a lot of the gear there," professional cage fighter Daniel "Domination" Price said. 

Bruce said he doesn't think the study should scare away anyone. He said trained officials know when to stop a match before a head injury might happen.

(Editor's note: This story has been edited to correct the misspelling of the word officials.)