SMMAF’s Halldin: “Criticism of MMA Fuelled by Moral Panic”

“What is it that motivates critics to take up arms against MMA? The answer is morality. Nothing else. The ignorant and reluctant refuse to see the sport, see the complex game, its tactics and strategies,” writes John Halldin, President of the Swedish MMA Federation.

– Extract from Johan Halldin’s comment piece for the SVT newsite, dated 28th January,  following the UFC’s recent descent on Sweden. Sveriges Television (SVT) is Sweden’s public service television company. See below for the full article in English: –

 

It does not take a brain scientist to realise that head injuries are bad for you – or that one should beware of them.

Following the weekend’s UFC gala at the Tele2 Arena panicked headlines have flooded the media: “MMA invokes brain damage!”, ” We must protect our children!”. These comments lie among others made by brain researcher, Professor Ingvar, in SVT Opinion yesterday.

It’s time to put it bluntly: It is not the risk of brain damage that is the cause of the panic .

If the motivation was reducing risk of brain damage, wouldn’t criticisms equally be directed against other sports such as eventing or figure skating?  Wouldn’t demands arise for a ban on allowing thousands of young people to practice pirouettes and jumps on the ice without a helmet? Motocross, football, ski jumping, hockey … The list of sports that expose their practitioners to really great risks is long.

So what is that fires up critics to fight against the right of individuals to participate in MMA? The answer is morality. Nothing else .

Children’s patrons and promoters of health consider the sport reprehensible for its punches and kicks, for that fact that its competitors physically subject their opponents to moderated blows. Morality tells them that it is a vulgar and sordid fight. The ignorant and reluctant refuse to see the sport, to see the complex game, its tactics and strategies. As the critics are driven by moral conviction, it is not sufficient for them to simply choose not to watch it, as they might do with Formula 1, for example. No – MMA must be banned.

But to call for social prohibition against a growing sport, once an Olympic event, can not be purely based on concerns over child protection. It is claimed that the children, the innocent , must be protected from the evil of violence . It is comparable to the moral panic that erupted in the 80s over hard rock, or VIDEO VIOLENCE . We must protect the children!

The vast majority of sports are practised largely by recreational exercisers, a small portion of Amateur level contestants and by a marginal number of elite practitioners. What is appropriate for a small number of elite practitioners across sports is never considered reasonable for the general public. What Pernilla Wiberg can achieve on a downhill slope, few athletes could manage!

Contrary to what is claimed, MMA does not pose a higher risk or rate of  injury than other sports when comparisons are made between groups of recreational participants, Amateur competitors and elite athletes across sports.

All over the country Amateur competitions, club competitions and similar events are organised on a regular basis. These are the events that are most representative of the sport. A handful of Swedes have continued to elite level and been invited to participate in commercial leagues. The security measures demanded of organisers in Sweden for the protection of practitioners is extensive.

We could compare injury statistics, talk about causality, comparing risk and  potential damage. We could hold objectively and scientifically honest discussions in order to further minimize risks for all sports – including for the kids! But it is impossible as long as the actual resistance to our sport is based on moral issues.

As it happens, Alexander Gustafsson lost his match in the Tele2 Arena. As the elite athlete he is, one of Sweden’s foremost, he has learnt to us losses as his workout fuel for his next match, well aware of the risks.

 

See original article, “Criticism of MMA Fuelled by Moral Panic”,  in Swedish: http://www.svt.se/opinion/article2635605.svt

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