MMA is one of the most intense and injury-prone sports in the world. Pitting two people against each other using various combat forms creates all sorts of potential outcomes. Knowing which injuries are likely to happen will help fighters correct their style to promote safety without hindering their ability to win a match.
What Are the Most Common Injuries in MMA?
The most common injuries in MMA are fractured hands, ACL tears, concussions, broken bones in the face, and chipped teeth. These injuries are often caused by punches, kicks, and submissions. However, some of them are self-inflicted by a misstep, blocked low kick, or slipping.
Throughout this article, we’ll break down how you can prevent the most common MMA injuries, how often they happen, and whether or not training for an MMA match is safe. We’ll also talk about why they’re more common than rarer injuries.
How to Prevent Injuries in MMA
To prevent injuries in MMA, you should wear protective gloves and mouthguards, learn how to throw your strike to avoid fractures, and know when you should tap out if you’re being submitted. Lifting weights, training cardio, and stretching will keep you loose and flexible to avoid hyperextensions and muscle tears.
Here’s a detailed list of each preventative measure:
- Wear protective gear when training and competing. Headgear, mouthguards, shinguards, gloves, and other equipment is often irreplaceable. You can wear all of them while training and just the gloves and mouthguard in a real match (some places allow everything for amateur fights).
- Learn how to punch, kick, and submit properly. Throwing a punch at an awkward angle can fracture your hand or break a finger. Getting your kick blocked can break your shin, which has happened in pro UFC fights. These skills are the building blocks to winning and staying safe.
- Know when it’s time to throw in the towel. If you’re getting beaten or need to tap, don’t be afraid to call it a day. There’s a stigma behind tapping out, but even the best athletes admit it’s part of the sport. Failure to submit or quit can lead to irreparable ligament damage.
- Strength training, cardio, and stretching are crucial to your safety. MarcPro explains that you’re much more likely to get injured without these three components. Stretching is a crucial part of MMA, and you should do it before every training session, sparring match, and competition.
All sports have potential injuries. It’s understandable that MMA would lead the charge in many categories due to its fast-paced, high-impact style. We’ll dive into the frequency of these injuries in the following section.
Frequency of MMA Injuries Compared to Other Sports
The frequency of MMA injuries compared to other sports is similar to American football because they both have concussions, cuts, and continuous head trauma. However, a study by Orlando Ortho shows MMA fights have a 37.3% chance of lacerations compared to only 7% in American football.
Lacerations and Concussions Happen the Most
The NCAA estimates college football concussions happen in 7.4% of players, whereas 20.8% of MMA fighters get concussions. Repeated head trauma is similar in both sports, which assumes both of them can generate long-term brain damage. Lacerations are more severe in MMA than in any other sport.
Contusions and Fractures Are Common in MMA
According to NCBI, 5% to 10% of all injuries are related to fractures. MMA has an average fracture rate of 6.2%, making it right about average compared to every other sport. Contusions are common in all contact sports, but also those that involve contact with the ground rather than players (baseball, soccer, and lacrosse).
Strains, Sprains, and Dislocations Can Happen Regularly
Dislocating, straining, or spraining is common in MMA, but it’s not rare in any sport. Any time you push yourself and move around, there’s a chance of getting injured. Prevention starts with stretching, training, and cardio, but these injuries are often unavoidable. They make up to 6% of MMA injuries.
Is Training MMA Safe?
Training MMA is safe because it helps your body adapt to new motions, learn how to defend yourself, and prevents injuries by letting you know how to handle yourself in a match. You’ll react better, and most MMA sparring sessions have extra gear to keep you safe throughout the session.
Here’s a more in-depth three-part answer:
- Training strengthens and adapts your body for combat. Have you ever felt extremely sore after working out for the first time in a while? This process is your body growing and learning how to handle new movements. This type of training will make it much easier for you to wrestle your opponents, making your long-term progress safer.
- Proper sparring is rarely full-force fighting. While training injuries aren’t unheard of, they’re not nearly as common as getting hurt during a competitive match. Sparring partners and gym coaches will take it easier enough to keep you safe, especially in the weeks preceding a match.
- Training sessions can help you prevent injuries by learning how to react and protect yourself in a match. Injuries often happen from getting punched, kicked, or submitted. If you train enough, you’ll learn how to dodge, parry, and transition to save the match and keep yourself safe from harm.
Training can be dangerous if you go too fast or don’t listen to your coaches and sparring partners. MMA is all about improving your craft and fine-tuning the small details. By taking advantage of training sessions, you can stay safe and prevent yourself from getting hurt. Furthermore, your body will be pushed to its limits, increasing your strength and endurance.
MMA is a hardcore sport, so there’s no denying the potential for injuries. By protecting yourself with special gear (mouthguards and gloves around the clock and shinguards and headgear for sparring or training), you can drastically reduce the chance of getting hurt. Bruises and bleeding are an inevitable part of mixed martial arts, but severe injuries are avoidable.
Proper training and preparation are crucial to keeping yourself safe in MMA.