British Medical Association Condemns Mixed Martial Arts

Georges St. Pierre defeats Johny Hendricks, Credit: Esther Lin

By Fraser Ryan

The British Medical Association has backed comments made by Headway Brain Injury Association Chief Executive Peter McCabe condemning the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA).

A spokesperson for the British Medical Association said:”The BMA is opposed to mixed martial arts, cage fighting and boxing. This opposition is based on medical evidence that reveals the risk, not only of acute injury, but also of chronic brain damage which is sustained by those who survive a career in where they receive repeated blows to the head. These types of sport are sometimes defended on the grounds that children learn to work through their aggression with discipline and control. The BMA believes there are many other sports, such as athletics, swimming, judo and football, which require discipline but do not pose the same threat of brain injury.”

Speaking on BBC News last week, Headway’s Peter McCabe labelled MMA a “brutal” sport. McCabe said:

“It’s extremely dangerous and we feel that every time somebody takes part in a bout they’re risking their health. In New York this sport is banned, why are we not adopting a similar law in this country, because ultimately this is what we’re talking about peoples’ lives, peoples health and potentially life long disability.”

The sport, which infuses several forms of martial arts, including boxing, Brazilian jiu jistsu, amateur wrestling and kickboxing, has been at the centre of controversy for several years now. The British Medical Association first took umbrage with the sport in 2007, calling for it to be completely banned in the UK.

However, doubt has been cast over the findings of the British Medical Association. Safe MMA, a non-profit organisation made up of volunteer medical professionals with no vested interest in the sport, have claimed that there is no concrete proof that MMA is as dangerous as the BMA makes out. A Safe MMA spokesperson said:

“MMA is currently sanctioned across most states in America. Since the sport was officially formed in the US under unified rules as recently as 2001, there is simply not the medical data yet to draw any scientific conclusions about the real risks of the sport in comparison to other sports (including horse riding, rugby, boxing, climbing.) It is Safe MMA’s position that until we have a clear understanding of the risks that professional MMA fighters face for acute and chronic brain injuries, it is not our recommendation to target the sport in the media as significantly worse than other sports practised across the UK. Mixed martial arts needs to be looked at in the context of combat sports in general in this country, since MMA is a fusion of martial arts; some of which fall under the Olympic umbrella.”

Safe MMA say they will continue to work with promotions and fighters to ensure as safe an environment as possible. Safe MMA’s spokesperson said:

“We are putting effort into practically making the sport safer in partnership with sport promoters and competitors; and building an evidence base for the risks and benefits of the sport, which we believe should be the focus at this time. Safe MMA was set up was to establish exactly how often and severely Traumatic Brain Injuries as well as other injuries occurs in the sport.”