(Funny, these quacks aren’t calling for a ban on hockey.)
When a syndicated story run in the majority of Canada’s newspapers begins with "Ladies and gentlemen; boys and girls; children of all ages! In this corner, weighing in at a staggering mass of popularity, we have the blood sport known as mixed-martial arts!"
Pause for applause.
"And, in our other corner, sporting a stethoscope and look of genuine consternation, we have . . . Canadian doctors!" it usually isn’t a positive story for the sport of MMA.
A story appearing in several major Canadian newspapers today reports that
the organization that represents doctors in British Columbia is urging its counterparts from across the country to call on the federal government to impose a national ban on mixed martial arts.
According to the report, the B.C. Medical Association held a caucus meeting and passed a resolution stating it wants the full-contact sport banned in Canada last month and now the body, which acts as the voice of doctors in B.C. is planning to bring that resolution to the Canadian Medical Association’s annual general meeting at Niagara Falls, Ont., from Aug. 23 to 25.
If the national group votes in favor of adopting the resolution, it will lobby the federal government to work with the provinces to bring an end to MMA contests in the country.
"We know there are a number of serious injuries that can occur, including broken limbs, lacerations and brain damage," said Dr. Ian Gillespie, president of the B.C. organization.
Apparently Gillespie doesn’t drive a car, ride a bike or walk down the street in the presence of traffic, since each of these activities carry similar inherent risks.
"Recently, an MMA fighter making his professional debut in South Carolina died from a brain hemorrhage after receiving repeated blows to his head, and during an event in Vancouver, a number of MMA fighters received emergency care at Vancouver General Hospital for lacerations, fractured limbs and severe facial bruising," he pointed out, ignoring the fact that people have died from injuries sustained while golfing, bowling and cheerleading in the past.
"A lot of people are convinced that our sport is actually more violent and that there are more traumatic head injuries than in sports like boxing or football," said Tom Wright, director of operations at the Canadian arm of Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Citing a 2006 Johns Hopkins University study which found that the overall rate of injury in MMA is no worse than other combat sports, including boxing and that the mortality rate is much less, Wright pointed out that MMA knockout rates are lower than in boxing, which suggests a reduced rate of traumatic brain injury in MMA compared to other combat sports.
Gillespie said his group is taking the close-minded position that MMA fights are more dangerous than boxing because of fewer safety rules.
"It’s our understanding what distinguishes mixed martial arts fighting from boxing, for instance, is the use of various techniques to disable the opponent that aren’t limited to punching and the fewer of what might be called safety rules. For example, MMA allows a fighter to attack an opponent while down and we believe those things increase the risk of serious injury," said Gillespie.
Taking issue with the broad brush Gillespie’s group has painted MMA with, Wright said UFC would be interested in talking with the B.C. doctors about their resolution "to provide our perspective, to provide our data, to provide our facts so that individuals are making informed decisions," rather than incorrectly calling it a dangerous, unsafe bloodsport like many uninformed people including the reporter who penned the article refer to MMA as.
Wright also added that the commission that regulated the South Carolina event that the fighter fought in who died as a result of injuries that may have been pre-existing does not require the same medical testing that UFC does, such as an MRI test.
The UFC has been lauded in recent years for bringing in in more safety regulations for MMA, such as weight classes as well as properly trained medical staff and officials, and Wright says that that the sport needs to be regulated to their standard to ensure the highest level of safety for athletes.
So agreed Dr. Samuel Gutman, founder of Vancouver’s Rock Doc Consulting and an ER physician at Lions Gate Hospital, who’s treated MMA athletes as a ringside doctor and other combative sports for the past seven years.
"What’s really needed is a provincial governing body that will protect the fighter," said B.C. ER doctor Dr. Samuel Gutman who has worked as a ringside physician at several MMA events in the province. "The fact is (the sport) is not going away and it’s being practised in less than a safe manner in some cases, like many other things. Activities, when they’re regulated, they become safer because there’s standards."
"[The UFC is] the pinnacle," Gutman said. "Do people say that the NFL is wrong because there’s players injured on a significant basis when they play at that level, and similarly the NHL? This is the top league in the world for this sport, and so people get hurt."
Currently only Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon and Nunavut have provincewide bans on the contests, but the majority don’t have provincial athletic commissions who could sanction the sport while New Brunswick has a ban on MMA fighting outside of the city of Moncton where regulation is done by a city-run commission.