A group of Australian physicians that treated a 41-year-old Queensland man who suffered a stroke due to an injury he purportedly suffered during a recreational grappling class have published an article in a medical journal calling for the implementation of increased safety measures, including stricter governance of the sport’s trainers in the country.
In a report prepared by attending physicians Dr Michael Slowey, Dr Graeme Maw, and Dr Jeremy Furyk for Emergency Medicine Australasia — the journal of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine — they state that the victim originally thought he had suffered mild to moderate neck strain, but was later diagnosed with a vertebral tear that caused the stroke.
“This case highlights the risks posed by participation in sports, such as MMA, both in competition and in training,” Dr Slowey is quoted as saying. “People need to be aware of the real risk of permanent neurological damage. Although grappling is permitted in MMA, prevention of this form of injury is clearly a major problem. In this case, the patient has been advised to refrain from further participation in any form of martial arts.”
The Aussie group maintains that they aren’t calling for a ban on MMA or training, but they do ask that the government get involved in regulating the certification of trainers who teach at gyms and dojos where aspiring fighters or recreational MMA hobbyists train before incidents like this become more common.
“At the end of the day no matter what the sport is, I don’t think doctors are going to get much chance of changing the rules,” he says. “But if we make people aware of the risks then the governing bodies can take things into consideration.”
Besides tighter guidelines for MMA gyms, the trio is also seeking stricter controls similar to boxing, including independent accreditation of officials, records kept of fighters’ suspensions and injuries and licensing of fight promoters.
“You do that and you will have an appropriately run, much safer sport for everyone,” President of the Martial Arts Industry Association (MAIA) Walt Missingham says.
“With a broader range of styles and rules comes a wider range of injuries,” Dr Slowey explains. “Most injuries in MMA are facial lacerations, upper limb injuries and concussions.The documented injury rate is 23.6 per 100 fight participations, with severe concussion rates of 15.4 per 1000 athlete exposures, or 3% of all fights.”
They’ve definitely done their homework and they have a point, since just about anyone, regardless of whether or not they are qualified to teach can rent a storefront, put “MMA” on the door and begin selling memberships to unsuspecting customers. At the very least, for insurance purposes gym owners should have to ensure that they have an employee who is certified in CPR and first aid on hand whenever the doors are open. Although certification won’t stop freak injuries like this from happening, having a group to investigate the cause of the mishap and offer suggestions or levy sanctions such as license suspensions for the offending parties would go a long way at preventing them.
I’ve been seriously injured in training due to the negligence (see stupidity) of a training partner and it definitely could have been prevented if the idiot who did it was educated by a competent trainer. That’s not to say that the trainer didn’t have the creds to teach, he simply failed to run through the rules of the gym and what was allowed during rolling and sparring. I was lucky that my injury healed up for the most part. Some aren’t so lucky.