Study reveals MMA fighters at higher risk of brain injury than boxers

Research shows that MMA fighters are hit for 3.5 seconds after a knockout blow. (Getty Images)

A study performed by University of Toronto researchers that has been published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine has revealed that mixed martial arts fighters are at a higher risk of brain injuries than boxers, or other martial arts fighters.

The Associated Press published a report outlining the study's results on Friday.

The study, which looked at MMA fights from 2006 to 2012, found that fighters were hit for an additional 3.5 seconds after being knocked out, which comes out to almost three more punches. Additionally, about a third of all MMA fights end in a knockout or technical knockout.

And the research goes even deeper, finding that in fights that ended with a technical knockout, the loser was hit on average more than 18 times, with 92 percent of those blows coming to the head.

"Given that participation at amateur levels of the sport is growing rapidly, we expect to see high rates of traumatic brain injuries at more junior levels of amateur competition," the researchers concluded. "These points strongly argue for banning the sport in youth and for preventive strategies to reduce the burden of traumatic brain injuries in professional MMA fighters who elect to fight." 

UFC, the biggest brand in MMA fighting, responded by saying that they have taken careful measures to ensure fighters' safety.

"By partnering with the Cleveland Clinic, one of the world's leading medical research institutions, on advanced studies aimed at not only preventing long-term brain injuries, but also identifying those predisposed to them, the UFC demonstrates true commitment to the safety of all professional athletes," UFC chief operating officer Lawrence Epstein told the AP.

In any event, the Toronto researchers pointed to other data that showed that concussion rates in MMA were greater than both hockey and football. And, as a result, suggested further training for referees to be able to earlier detect signs of a concussion, and also a mandatory 10-second count of evaluation, as is common practice in boxing.

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