11 Jul LONGEVITY IN COMBAT SPORTS: MMA VERSUS BOXING
As the UFC pushes Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) to the mainstream, an age old question remains: Why Is MMA safer then boxing? The main premise behind the debate has always been that unlike boxing, in MMA, there are more avenues to victory than striking your opponent. Highlighting the obvious, there are less painful paths to victory, thus creating some reductions in MMA less damaging on a fighter’s body and brain. The Unified Rules of MMA make it feasible for a MMA fighter to win a bout by judges’ decision or by possibly submitting their competitor. The resulting idea is that MMA athletes suffer fewer traumatic injuries and the chances are lessened that they may become punch drunk. However, proponents of boxing are always quick to point out the smaller gloves employed in MMA and the fact the rules allowing for leg elbows and strikes. Therefore”it is time” to take an in-depth look to both sides of the argument. Before getting into the thick of this debate, I want to highlight one of the key reasons I chose to write this report. Shawn O’Sullivan, a retired fighter that I have met many occasions, resides in my hometown. On paper, his life seems like a success story. However the real truth is that his boxing career killed his chances of having a successful life after his career was over. A brief documentary on his story can be found below.Many would consider O’Sullivan’s career somewhat illustrious because he was the 1981 World Amateur Champion, 1981 Canadian Athlete of the Year and 1984 Olympic Silver medalist at light middleweight. Also many consider his gold medal bout against Frank Tate very controversial as it appeared like the fix was in. Despite scoring two standing 8 counts at around two the judges awarded that round to Tate. Upon going pro, he found himself fast murdered in 1988 with failed comebacks in both 1991 and 1997. Shawn’s overall listing of 23-5-0, together with 16 knockouts handed him by without reaching his dreams of competing in a world title bout. After four fights in 1997, a neurologist refused to renew the license he needed to continue boxing due to brain damage he saw during a CAT scan. Today, O’Sullivan is residing with the issues of brain damage, but he does not regret his career in boxing. During my many conversations with O’Sullivan, he almost always slurred his speech also had difficulties recalling parts of his life. Regrettably, his ability to share his story is all he has to show for his famous career. But, that is hindered as a result of the culmination of blows to the head that he endured during his boxing career. O’Sullivan suffers from boxer’s dementia, commonly called being”punch drunk” brought about partly as a result of the fighting style and gruelling sparring sessions at the gym. If you want to find out what I mean, take a few minutes and see his bout against Armando Martinez. What remains untold to most, and something which highlights the significance of this article is that O’Sullivan was pushed to boxing with his first trainer: his father. Rumors are his dad was allowing his son spar against heavyweights and even bigger men as part of the daily reality test for O’Sullivan. As parents, one may feel uncomfortable recommending your child partake in any battle sport out of this fear of their long term consequences. Therefore signing up your child to boxing or MMA training could become a question of which is safer? Is there a chance you could help choose the lesser of 2 so-called evils. Until recently the entire argument behind MMA is safer then Boxing was completely theoretical. There continues to be little scientific facts and findings to support the claim. Most recently the University of Alberta’s Dr. Shelby Karpman headed a review of over a decade’s worth of health care exams from roughly 1,700 fighters in Edmonton, Canada. According to the study, Fifty-nine per cent of MMA athletes lasted some kind of injury, compared to 50 per cent of boxers. However, boxers were more likely to lose consciousness during a bout: seven per cent versus four percent for MMA fighters. Irrespective of the facts to as which sport is safer, ” The Canadian Medical Association has called for a ban on both MMA and boxing. By highlighting a 2014 University of Toronto study showed an MMA fighter suffered a traumatic brain injury at almost a third of professional bouts. It’s not my intention to cast doubt on the safety of a game, nevertheless both boxing and MMA have had instances of deaths which are well recorded. Recently a MMA fighter died because of complications cutting weight. John McCain, who once labeled the sport of MMA”human cockfighting,” sat ringside in the 1995 boxing departure of Jimmy Garcia. But, very few serious life threatening accidents in MMA come to mind as none have happened on its primary stage. A fighter’s passing within the Octagon has never happened and it never will. But it’s something that has to be in the back of everybody’s mind when we see fighters getting knocked out lifelessly. Rendering an opponent not only defenceless but unconscious remains to be the title of the struggle game if it’s MMA or Boxing. That is where a fighter’s fanfare, bonus money and constant hype derives. UFC President Dana White announced MMA that the”safest sport in the world, fact.” The concept that MMA is the safest sport in the world is crazy. Tennis, golf, track and field, swimming… are”safer” sports in that they lack head trauma all together and pose little risk of passing. Touting up safety should include a responsibility to fully study the effects of your game. The construction on what’s going to be known as the UFC Athlete Health and Performance Center begins this soon and will take 15 weeks to complete. Next to medical insurance for training accidents, this can be MMA’s next most significant step towards taking on more of a leading role in sport security. With that said, Dana’s end game is that Scientific research will eventually brand MMA as a”safer” alternative for battle sport athletes when compared with boxing. But, it would just further the sport’s reverse relationship. As MMA increases in popularity, boxing’s visibility at the national consciousness continues to fall and it’s easy to finger point. Additionally, it can’t be stressed enough that the very first generation of fighters are just getting out of this game over the past few decades. Science has an incredibly small sample size to look at in terms of aging MMA fighters at this time, although UFC originals such as Gary Goodridge are already feeling the consequences. We probably still require a couple more”generations” of fighters to retire and grow old to get an actual sense of the effects of the game on them since they age. And by that I mean boxers who have had to compete with other high level athletes, not boxers who were the very best of a sport that was very much in the developmental stages. Fighters like George St Pierre, Demetrious Johnson and Ronda Rousey are not likely to face any longstanding effects of brain injury primarily because of their runs of dominance as well as their ability to avoid significant harm. Johnson recently stated on the Joe Rogan Experience that”There is not enough money in the entire world for me to risk brain damage.” Johnson, like many other fighters that are educated, knows that carrying too much harm in his career will hurt his longevity both inside and outside the sport, and that is why he’s so conscious of his safety in the Octagon. Maybe that’s the reason why he’s never lost consciousness from the Octagon. Whatever the case, it is tough to utilize findings of yesteryear to find out the security of the game now. So much always changes within the sport of MMA that trying to compare between eras is essentially the same in trying to compare completely different sports. Maybe then a better approach is not to examine the game’s past, and instead on its current as time goes on. The argument as to which sport is safer because of the glove size is moot. The amount of punishment a fighter takes over their career is individualistic and highly determined by a fighter’s style. The main selling point as to why MMA is more powerful than boxing is actually the glove size. The boxing glove was created to protect the hands, not the individual being punched. However MMA professionals assert that they use the bare minimum in hand defense. Any debate surrounding how a hand will crack before the mind is not exactly the most attractive strategy to advocate for a safer sport. The same holds for the standing eight count. Arguing that allowing a concussed fighter to continue at a struggle after being knocked down only furthers brain injury. In MMA we see a lot follow up punches following a fighter is left unconscious — maybe equally damaging to permitting a boxer to continue after getting devastating blows. There are many variables in determining the devastation of a landed punch–from technique to timing, to whether or not the recipient saw the punch coming–that it would be virtually impossible to determine in a live match that glove size could have caused the most damage. Furthermore, there are quite a few other rules and elements that determining which sport is safer. The normal period of a Boxing game is normally longer then that of an MMA fight. There are many variables that are individualistic into the fighter. I’d love to declare each sport equally as harmful, but until additional research is completed, one can not create this kind of statement with much assurance. The inherent dangers in the sports are intrinsically connected. The capability of a fighter to achieve longevity in the game is more dependant on the skills of this fighter themselves then their various sports parameters alone. Generalizing that is safer without the scientific evidence to support such a claim remains a matter of opinion.
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