Mixed martial arts (MMA) may look ultra-violent and bloody at first impression, but a new study found that MMA is actually less dangerous to its participants than another popular contact sport, boxing.
A team of researchers from the University of Alberta's Glen Sather Sports Medicine Clinic found that though MMA fighters have a higher risk for minor injuries boxers, they are also less likely to experience severe ones like concussion, head trauma and broken bones compared to the latter.
"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 Dr. Shelby Karpman from the Glen Sather clinic. She explained that most of the blood in MMA came from facial cuts that don't tend to be as severe as they look.
This information came from after studying years' worth of clinical data from medical exams after MMA and boxing matches. The team was able to study post-fight data from over 1,181 MMA fighters and over 500 boxers.
The team found out that more than 59.4 percent of MMA fighters were injured from their matches, but most of these injuries were bruises and contusions.
Boxers, on the other hand, were more likely to lose consciousness during a match or be inflicted with serious eye injuries and other severe damage. Boxers have a 7.1 percent chance of losing consciousness due to a fight compared to MMA fighters with only four percent.
The increased danger in boxing exists because fighters tend to aim for their opponent's head, and the damage will accumulate over time. This is because in boxing, and unlike in MMA, there aren't a lot of options to win other than hitting to knock an opponent out.
Karpman said that there will always be risks involved while engaging in contact sports but the stigma associated with MMA fighters for engaging in a seemingly excessively violent and bloody show left fighters being undertreated.
"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.
Karpman added that calling for a ban of these contact sports is not the answer as participants will most likely take MMA underground, where access to adequate medical care will be harder to find.