Recent deaths during combat sports events have attracted the attention of fans and officials. The circumstances surrounding these catastrophes require further review.
As opposed to boxing, Mixed Martial Arts allows the application of multiple fighting disciplines including: wrestling, judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, boxing and Muay Thai kickboxing. The variety of these skills has helped attract fans who follow and participate in these martial arts primarily for fitness and self-defense.
Unfortunately, the operative word in these contests is “combat” and it is meant to be taken literally. These amateur and professional fighters are placed in a situation where the body invokes the “fight or flight” response. This reflex causes the heart to race, muscles to tighten, blood pressure to rise and glucose to elevate. Essentially, these changes prepare the human body for battle. This level of stress demands that the athlete be in excellent condition.
Since 2007, at least 15 MMA fighters have died either preparing for or during a contest. Two of those deaths have occurred in the last six weeks.
Tim Hague, an MMA fighter, died in a boxing match in Edmonton, Alberta, after a punishing blow resulted in a brain hemorrhage. Donshay White died of what is believed to be a cardiac event after an amateur MMA event.
Pre-fight medical requirements vary among states and Native American tribal jurisdictions. Although not perfect, these studies are important to screen for potential tragedies.
“Deaths in combat sports are unfortunate occurrences. Uniform medical requirements across all state and tribal commissions must be established,” reports Mr. Michael Mazzulli who heads the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation and currently serves as president of the United States Association of Boxing Commissions. “In Connecticut, the medical regulations are identical for the State, Mashantucket-Pequot and Mohegan commissions.”
Despite its popularity, participants in MMA contests must realize that potential death is a very real risk.
Dr. Alessi is a neurologist in Norwich and serves as an on-air contributor for ESPN. He is director of UConn NeuroSport and can be reached at email@example.com