A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Alberta suggests that mixed martial arts — often seen as the more vicious of all the combative sports — poses less “serious” health risks than the traditionally acceptable sport of boxing.
Researchers gathered and reviewed decades worth of data from post-fight medical examinations, determining that MMA fighters face a greater risk of suffering what is referred to as “minor” injuries — such as bruises or contusions. Boxers, however, face higher risk of suffering “serious harm” — otherwise defined as concussions, loss of consciousness, eye injuries or broken bones.
“Yes, you’re more likely to get injured if you’re participating in mixed martial arts, but the injury severity is less overall than boxing,” said lead author Shelby Karpman, a sports medicine physician at the Glen Sather clinic. “Most of the blood you see in mixed martial arts is from bloody noses or facial cuts; it doesn’t tend to be as severe but looks a lot worse than it actually is.”
The group studied examination results from 1,181 MMA fighters and 550 boxers who competed in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada from 2003-13. They found that while a greater percentage of MMA fighters suffer some form of injury in their bouts, boxers tend to suffer more serious injuries and are “significantly” more likely to receive medical suspensions for their injuries.
If anything, the seemingly surprising results only go against the public’s perception regarding mixed martial arts, Karpman argues.
“These guys do not get the respect they deserve for what they’re doing — or the medical treatment — because the medical community doesn’t want to deal with such a bloody sport with head injuries and concussions,” Karpman said.