Concussions and the Possible Future of Mixed Martial Artists


Promoted to the front page from the FanPosts by Luke Thomas.

Malcolm Gladwell's latest piece for the New Yorker, while focusing primarily on Football and Boxing (with some dogfighting as well; ignore that part for our purposes) could be a frightening look at post-fight life for mixed martial artists.

Thanks to a study at the University of North Carolina, new data is coming out regarding head trauma and its long-term effects.  Much of the focus on head injuries revolves around concussions, but doctors may not be looking in the right place:

But a football player’s real issue isn’t simply with repetitive concussive trauma. It is, as the concussion specialist Robert Cantu argues, with repetitive subconcussive trauma. It’s not just the handful of big hits that matter. It’s lots of little hits, too.

The player in mind with this study had sustained in a previous practice alone 31 hits that registered as sub-concussive, but still over 60g's of force.  For perspective:

Guskiewicz explained, if you drove your car into a wall at twenty-five miles per hour and you weren’t wearing your seat belt, the force of your head hitting the windshield would be around 100 gs

Why does this matter in MMA?  Take Chris Lytle: His only TKO losses were due to cuts and has never been finished by strikes in the traditional sense.  His fan-pleasing style has resulted in Fight of the Night bonuses on four occasions, thanks to his willingness to "stand and bang" with anyone and everyone, despite possessing considerable skill on the ground.  While good for his pocketbook, Lytle could be looking at serious trouble down the road.

One of the brains scanned by Ann McKee, a neurologist at a VA Hospital in Massachusetts, showed the damage and decay of an old man suffering dementia.  The catch? It belonged to an 18 year old high-school football player.

While the article focuses on football and a little on boxing, it's not hard to see the implications as they pertain to MMA.  As fighters go out there to please the crowd, giving as good as they get and taking home their bonus checks, I hope they're banking that money for their post-fight lives.  I credit the sport and the athletic commissions for issuing medical suspensions as liberally as they do and requiring doctor's clearances to return to action, but I can't help but feel like this may not be enough.

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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