MMA Injuries And How to Avoid Them

Brief History of MMA

The Gracie family invented Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and were determined to show the world that it was the very best of all the Martial Arts. They would video record themselves fighting other martial artists from various backgrounds such as Judo, Hapkido, and Karate etc.

23 years ago Rorion Gracie and his partners started the Ultimate Fighting Championships – a mixed martial arts (MMA) tournament. There were hardly any rules (apart from strikes to the eye and groin) making it a very dangerous tournament. To show the efficacy of their art, the Gracies picked the 176 lbs Royce Gracie as their representative to demonstrate that their art does not rely on size or strength. Royce Gracie would win multiple tournaments with victories over fighters who had considerable size and strength advantage over him (of course there were no weight categories in the early UFC events).

MMA has exploded since the early UFC events and there are now countless organizations promoting the sport all over the world from Japan and Russia to Europe and the US. The UFC is the most important of these organizations and recently sold for $4.2 billion dollars last year, having been bought for only $2 million 15 years earlier – which just goes to show how rapidly the sport is growing.

The sport has evolved over the years, becoming a fully-fledged professional sport with weight categories and rules to ensure fighters’ safety. The sport won a long legal fight last year becoming legalized in New York, celebrating its new legal status with UFC 205. The event did not disappoint, not least because of Conor McGregor’s historic win, becoming the first fighter in the UFC's history to hold titles in two divisions simultaneously.

With MMA being the fastest-growing sport, it’s important to understand common causes of MMA-related injuries and how to avoid them. This is particularly true for the millions of children who are now practising MMA and aspiring to one day take part as professionals.

MMA injuries and Prevention

Just like any sport, the standard practice to prevent injuries is also crucial in MMA. However, because of the dynamic of the sport, technique is much more pivotal in preventing injuries. This is a sport where you can get punched, kicked, kneed, elbowed, arm-locked, choked and more! Not only can you get injured from your opponent’s attacks but you can also get injured by executing an attack incorrectly or with bad timing. Another main cause of injuries is not knowing when to give up. Many fighters don’t quit because they cannot accept defeat and haven’t learnt to be smart and turn off the ‘relentless fighter’ mentality when it’s vitally needed. As such, their bodies are pushed over its capabilities which in turn leads to serious injuries. Below we look at some case studies.    

Leg Injuries from Kicks

There are two main ways of getting injured from a kick. One is not being able to check a kick properly which leads to swelling and severe bruising of the thigh. The best example of this was Uriah Faber who absorbed the devastating leg kicks of the explosive Jose Aldo for five rounds. The other way of getting injured is by not kicking with proper technique or kicking after “telegraphing” which can result in a check which in turn can damage your own leg. A popular example of this type of injury is when Anderson Silva broke his own leg when it was checked by Chris Weidman. Anderson Silva is one of many who has broken his own leg when throwing a kick- the internet is full of videos and pictures of fighters breaking their legs by kicking incorrectly. Below the MMA veteran Bas Rutten explains the correct technique.

Falling Correctly

MMA is full of throws, takedowns and slams and so one must master the fall in order to prevent injuries. A good example of how an incorrect fall can injure you is when Mauricio Rua fell and broke his arm when getting taken down by the wrestler Mark Coleman. Another example is when Ricardo Arona was knocked out when Quinton Jackson slammed him. Both these injuries could have been prevented with proper technique. See below a short video of how to fall properly.


Knowing When to Quit

Very often fighters don’t give up when being held in a submission and therefore end up with serious injuries. Usually this is a mentality issue with fighters not wanting to accept defeat, especially if the fight is with an opponent with whom there’s a longstanding rivalry. Good examples of these types of injuries are Tim Sylvia vs Frank Mir and Razak Al-Hassan vs Steve Cantwell. Both fights were ended by the referee stepping in and stopping the fight after the fighters’ arms were dislocated from over-extension caused by the submission holds. It’s very important that young children learning MMA are taught to quit well in advance of any injury taking place and not being indoctrinated with the ‘warrior spirit’ and ‘never give up’ mentality which can be so detrimental in the sport of MMA.


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