Do MMA Fighters Break Their Hands?


There is no denying the violent nature of mixed martial arts and the high risk of injury that the sport entails. Protective measures are taken to help fighters avoid injuries, but the risk still remains high. Although fighters wear padded gloves to protect their hands, sometimes it may not be enough protection. So, do MMA fighters break their hands?

Do MMA Fighters Break Their Hands?

Yes, although the padded gloves provide a little more protection, injuries to the hand are common in MMA. Broken fingers, jammed fingers, torn ligaments, and more are all common hand injuries that MMA fighters are at risk of. Hand injuries are even common in boxing where fighters wear bigger gloves.

The pain that a fist to the body can cause is clear and obvious, but many do not think about the wear and tear that a fighter’s hands take when making contact with the human body repeatedly throughout the course of a fight. Read on to get a further understanding of hand injuries in MMA, how they occur, and how often they happen. 

Can You Break Fingers In MMA?

No, you cannot legally break an opponent’s fingers during a fight. Joint manipulation such as attempting to break a finger, toe, wrist, or any joint for that matter will result in immediate disqualification and a potential ban or suspension from competition. However, fighters often break their own fingers during fights. 

One of the ways MMA protects its fighters is by making moves that are designed to immediately break a bone illegal. Fighters are supposed to be given the opportunity to submit before having their joints snapped. This is why you do not see joint manipulation used or taught in any known martial arts or fighting discipline. 

Broken fingers and toes can be very debilitating even for the toughest MMA fighters in the octagon. Even former light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones of the UFC nearly lost his toe, albeit accidentally, in a fight against Chael Sonnen at UFC 159. The commission takes joint injuries seriously and looks closely into potentially illegal moves.

Although deliberately breaking an opponent’s finger during a fight is illegal, fingers break all the time in MMA. When you are fighting and punching at full force, your fingers are bound to take a beating. Some fighters do not feel their fingers break or ligaments tear during a fight because of the adrenaline going through their bodies. 

Is It Common to Injure Your Hand In an MMA Fight?

Hand injuries are one of the most common injuries fighters face in the octagon. The majority of fights will involve hand-to-hand combat at some point and when your fists are flying at another person’s body at full force, all bets are off. The same can be said about the lower body, specifically a fighter’s feet and toes. 

  • Facial lacerations
  • Hand injuries
  • Nose injuries
  • Leg injuries 
  • Eye injuries

The list above shows the most common injuries in MMA and aside from the obvious facial injuries a fighter suffers, hand injuries come in second as the most common injury. It may not always be a broken finger or a torn ligament but most fighters can expect to see some form of swelling or bruising from a fight that saw a lot of punches thrown. 

Despite the common hand injuries, many fighters end up walking away without any severe damage done to their hands. Most hand injuries end up being manageable and do not require surgery. At worst, fighters will find themselves needing screws or metal plates to realign a dislocated finger, but catastrophic hand injuries are rare. 

Even boxers suffer hand injuries and they use much bigger and more padded gloves for their fights, granted, the sole purpose of a boxer is to punch, but less hand protection over the course of five rounds in MMA can lead to several injuries. Despite the vulnerability fighters face with hand injuries, severe injuries are rare occurrences.

Do MMA Fighters’ Hands Ever Heal Completely?

A fighter’s hand can be completely healed with the proper treatment and fighting modifications. However, fighters who use improper fighting techniques open themselves up for more injury, and the more they continue to punch improperly, the less of a chance they will give their hand to fully heal. 

Many athletes in combat sports have had their careers shortened due to agonizing hand injuries that they were never able to overcome. Just like with any injury, it takes time, patience, and rehabilitation to regain the strength and mobility a fighter requires in their hands. So, yes, a fighter’s hand can completely heal, but it must be treated properly.

How to Protect Your Hands from Injury in MMA

The most effective way to protect your hands from injury is by wrapping your hands with protective tape before putting the fighting gloves on. There are also several striking techniques that fighters can learn to help them keep themselves protected and fight in an effective but efficient manner. 

Gloves help fighters throw more punches. A fighter using bare knuckles will injure themselves very early on in the fight because the bones in the hand are very fragile and can break easily when hitting a surface as hard as bone. Most punches in a fight are aimed at the skull, which is the densest bone in the body and can lead to more injury. 

  • Protective tape
  • Fighting gloves
  • Fighting technique 

Gloves allow fighters to throw harder punches and thus increases the potential for big knockout punches. For comparison and contrast, if you have ever watched bare-knuckle boxing, you will notice the quality of the punches start to diminish as the fight goes on due to severe swelling and injury to the unprotected hand of the fighter. 

MMA fighting gloves are four ounces and, although they do not offer the most protection, they are better than the alternative of fighting with your bare hands. The reality is that gloves, tape, and other protective measures are in place to protect both fighters in the octagon. MMA is a violent sport, but rules and regulations make it sanctionable. 

How Safe Is Fighting with Gloves?

There is no denying that fighting with gloves on adds an extra layer of protection for fighters, but to assume that gloves automatically protect a fighter from being injured is a false assumption. Even professional fighters who train and practice their fighting techniques every day understand the risks. 

The best way to put it is that gloves make a fighter’s hands more durable and thus allows them to incorporate striking for longer periods of the fight. Fighting without gloves would make for short fights with little to no effective punches after the first few rounds because of the immediate swelling the hand will suffer when landing punches.

However, while gloves help decrease the chance of hand injuries, they also increase the potential for head injuries because fighters are able to throw harder punches to the skull without injuring themselves. Boxing gloves tend to decrease the impact of a punch, but the same cannot be said for MMA fighters using four-ounce gloves in the octagon. 

MMA fighters should also make sure to limit the number of times they spare or at least dial down on the intensity. The more punches you throw, the higher the risk of injury. Fighters can even injure themselves by training with heavy punching bags if they do not protect their hands properly. Gloves protect, but do not guarantee safety.

Conclusion

Although gloves add an extra layer of protection, fighters are still susceptible to hand injuries. While it will not always be a fracture or a torn ligament, fighters still come away with minor injuries to their hands after most fights. Four-ounce gloves help limit the damage to a fighter’s hands, but they do not fully protect them from common injuries in MMA. 

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