Adding to the Combat Sports Law blog database of combat sports safety studies, a recent study was published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine reviewing injury data from two years of MMA contests from two different jurisdictions.
In the study, titled Injury Profile of Mixed Martial Arts Competitions in the United States, the authors reviewed data from both amateur and professional contests in Arizona and Wisconsin in 2018 and 2019.
The data revealed that 57% of contests had an injury to at least one combatant, that injury rates were higher in professional contests than amatatuer, and that losing fighters suffered more injury than winning fighters, although winners suffered more orthopedic injury than losers and losers suffered a higher rate of brain injury.
Another interesting finding was that amateur bouts had more brain injuries than professional bouts with the authors noting, “We also found that amateurs experienced significantly more concussions than professionals.“ The data showed that the recorded concussion rate in amateur bouts was nearly double that in professional.
The study’s abstract reads as follows:
The popularity of mixed martial arts (MMA) continues to grow in the United States. Although prior work has provided valuable insight concerning injuries in the sport, much of the available literature is limited by factors such as small sample sizes, varying athlete demographics, and inconsistent data collection methods.
To report injury rates and types in MMA and analyze potential variance between competition and match variables.
Descriptive epidemiology study.
We performed a retrospective review of injuries sustained by fighters during MMA contests between 2018 and 2019 using ringside physician postmatch injury reports from Wisconsin and Arizona. The prevalence of overall injuries and specific injury types was compared by location (Arizona vs Wisconsin), competition level (amateur vs professional), match result (decisions vs any other result), and match winners versus losers.
In 503 contests, 285 (57%) had at least 1 injury. In these 285 matches, participants experienced 401 injuries: 197 (49%) in professional bouts and 204 (51%) in amateur bouts. The match injury rate was higher in professional bouts than in amateur contests (68% vs 51%; P < .001). Amateur fighters had more contusions and hematomas (31% vs 22%; P < .001), while professional fighters had more lacerations (39% vs 23%; P < .001). Losers exhibited a higher match injury rate than winners (48% vs 24%; P < .001). Winners experienced a higher proportion of fractures (19% vs 9%; P = .005), and losers experienced more concussions (17% vs 2%; P < .001).
Professional fighters and losers of MMA bouts exhibited higher injury rates relative to amateurs and winners. The prevalence of specific injury types varied by competition level, match result, and match winners versus losers. The results of this study may be used to better understand the current injury profile in MMA and to develop targeted strategies for injury prevention.