Five facts on MMA and safety

1. MMA has strict safety rules

A common misconception regarding MMA is that everything is allowed, probably stemming from the early days of MMA as well as the other more unregulated sports in the world of martial arts. This is however false, the Unified Rules of MMA include among other things:

  • No strikes to the back of the head
  • No small-joint manipulations
  • No groin strikes
  • No hair pulling, head butting or inserting a finger or fingers in the mouth and pulling,
  • No kicks to the head of a downed opponent
  • A competitor my admit defeat and stop the match by “tapping” on the opponent’s body or mat or by making a verbal announcement
  • Time determined rounds
  • Weight classes

2. MMA has few serious injuries

Contrary to popular belief, international statistics show that elite athletes competing in MMA are less likely to attain serious injuries than in a range of other contact sports such as ice hockey, boxing and American football. Why is this? There are three main reasons:

  • An MMA athlete on the professional level has approximately 12-14 training sessions per week but only 1-3 bouts per year. The physical shape required to be successful in a competition is very high and hence every athlete will have long periods of rest and training in between each bout. Compare this with for instance ice hockey where most teams have one or more games per week spanning over more than half of the year.
  • Athletes in professional MMA are examined by doctors before, during and after competitions. If an athlete is found to have an injury, that will prohibit his or her performance, during a pre-bout medical check by a physician, the athlete will not be allowed to compete to protect their safety. In addition, if an athlete is injured during a competition, the athlete will be given medical suspensions prohibiting them from contact in training until an appropriate time period or being cleared by a physician.
  • The most important reason however is that an elite MMA athlete is trained to be offensive as well as defensive and hence knows how to protect himself. Compare this to being unfairly tackled when trying to score in soccer or accidentally falling off a horse when jumping a fixed obstacle during an equestrian race. One reason that injuries are relatively low in MMA stems from this, that MMA is a sport where you are prepared and trained for impact, not where your key task is something else and you might get injured in the process.

3. Athletes are evenly matched in MMA

There are professional match makers in charge of ensuring that within each weight class contenders facing each other are evenly matched.

4. MMA is not just for elite athletes

As the sport has progressed so has its spread. Initially those competing in MMA came from other disciplines of martial arts and used the techniques they were comfortable with when meeting a contender who might come from a different discipline. But as MMA grows and as the athletes become more complete, so does the grass root movement of the sport. The athletes seen on television are only a small percentage of all the people that practice MMA around the world. MMA is absolutely a sport that one can start with at an early age, the only difference is the restrictions on techniques – the younger and the less mature the practitioner, the less full-contact is allowed. Read more about this under the heading Safety ladder.

5. MMA has an established foundation

MMA may be a new sport in the sense that the unique combination of techniques and rules is no more than a few decades old. But MMA isn’t novel in the sense that it is built on the techniques and rules of already established sports out of which five of the most influential ones are Olympic sports – boxing, Greco-roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, judo and taekwondo.