A little under a year ago we started to see stories come out about Gary Goodridge and issues he was suffering from his long fighting career. In an article on TheStar.com last May, Goodridge had talked about how he had significant memory problems and was on a series of drugs "fit for an Alzheimer's patient."
With the release of Goodridge's autobiography, he is once again in the news and talking about brain injuries. In an interview with MMA Weekly, Goodridge talks about his recent diagnosis for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)/pugilistic dimentia:
"You get the news you just have to deal with it, live with it," Goodridge told MMAWeekly.com on Monday. "There's no treatment that goes along with it. There's pills to make it slow down the process, but it's inevitable."
"I would like to share with people, but I think most of my damage came from K-1. MMA really wasn't an issue because there's hardly any shots to the head," said Goodridge. "90-percent of my injuries came from K-1, where there's nothing but head trauma, head injuries over and over again."
Obviously, yes, a sport with more strikes to the head will have more of an impact over time. It still is a little unfortunate to hear Gary phrase it the way he does though. His minimizing the impact MMA had on his health will allow fans to continue ignoring the reality that we will see CTE impact MMA as time goes on. It's not just about in competition injuries but also about training, where sparring accounts for much of the trauma a fighter will endure over the course of his career.
Back in 2010, a study was done on high school football players that showed that players who were never diagnosed as having suffered concussions were still showing brain impairment on par with that of players who had been diagnosed in more obvious cases and removed from play. As the Indy Star put it at the time:
Because these sub-clinical concussions -- injuries that can't be diagnosed as concussions but have similar effects -- are not recognized, the athletes are potentially at risk for additional, more serious concussions and other brain illnesses such as early-onset Alzheimer's disease, chronic depression and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which affects the normal function of the brain as scar tissue replaces neurons, according to the study.
This is where we should be more concerned as fans. I've been in big and small gyms where you see guys get "buzzed" durring sparring, sit out for a few minutes, then jump right back in. There's simply no way around the fact that involvement with combat sports carries with it a significant risk.
That is not to say the sport is bad, simply that there are risks involved with participation. I love MMA and I love boxing (a sport with an obvious higher risk for brain injuries). The violence and danger involved in the sports is a part of their appeal. That being said, I've focused a lot on concussions and brain injury in the past because I feel like MMA fans still have their heads in the sand when it comes to the fact that these are issues we're going to see more and more of as time goes on.
There's little we can do to prevent traumatic brain injury outright, this is a violent game we all love. But getting a better understanding of monitoring fighters in camp and trying to minimize the damage taken over time is a space where progress can be made.