T Nation

Head Trauma in MMA

Something to consider guys. This scares the SHIT out of me, my hand started shaking a little after reading this. Seriously, just wow. I’d really like to talk to someone with some experience in neurology to see whats up with the potential for this kind of thing happening to someone.

[i]Dojosensei - See, this is where FANS get fighters killed. If a fighter taps to a punch, he did it for a reason. Sure there are 'bitches" that tap out to that shit then there are those fighters that know damage is coming and he can’t do anything about it for whatever reason. You can hang in there and end up brain damaged LIKE I DID or you can be smart, know you’re beaten for whatever reason and tap out, fight again 3 months later.

I used to be one of those that I would take all of the punches someone had just to tire them out and then it’s show time folks. Stood toe to toe with a 6’3 275 lbs fighter (yep, 2 weight classes above me) and just let him unload knowing he would tire out. Was doing 1 night tournaments etc… Finally got into a fight and took repeated punches to the back of the head. The first punch that landed was to the back of the head, i don’t remember shit after that. Finally got to see the video a couple of years later to see repeated shots to the back of the skull (gee, I have a brain tumor now at the brainstem with early onset of muscular dystrophy, memory loss, seizures etc…). After it was over with, the referee stood over me giving me the DX suck it chop. Ref was his coach/buddy and had been going around for 2 months prior telling everyone i would get my ass kicked. Guess they made sure of that one. Way to stack the deck though.

Had no equilibrium for about a year then things came back. Started training again and then found out that I could no longer really take a punch. Went ahead and fought anyway and found myself in half guard taking massive amounts of punches. Realized there was nowhere I could go and tapped out. It was about 2 wks later the neurological issues began and went downhill from there. 3 strokes, seizures, brain tumor, muscular dystrophy (hereditary but early onset due to head trauma), memory loss, slurred speech at times etc…

Head Trauma is absolutely nothing to play with. Don’t take anymore punishment than is necessary just to “be a man”.[/i]

Thread from mma.tv that it’s on:
http://www.mixedmartialarts.com/mma.cfm?go=forum_framed.posts&forum=1&thread=1405157&page=1

This the game. Ain’t no joke.

That’s what separates boxing and MMA from all other sports.

Not nice stuff to think about as a fighter. I once had a fight where I took a big shot at the start of the 3rd round and still don’t remember anything from that point until 20 minutes after the fight. I actually continued fighting and won a 5 round decision but don’t remember it. Fighting is my life and I have to accept the risks. I do a LOT of neck conditioning to hopefully avoid too much trauma to my brain.

Just a couple points:

  1. all the sympathy in the world to this guy, I really hope whatever treatment he recieves goes well.

  2. totally agree with the point of his post. MMA is a sport, and must be treated as such. It is not the only proving ground for manhood, tap to fight another day. There’s nothing manly about being ignorant of the facts that you’re taking unhealthy abuse. Supporting the “badass” culture of MMA where people are just SO tough they don’t tap makes us all look foolish. Compete, be tough, but be smart.

  3. I’m a first year med student with an undergrad in psych, and admittedly I haven’t covered some of the disorders he’s afflicted with, but it think its important to note that there are a lot of factors at play that would make me suspect his symptoms aren’t necessarily causally linked to the head trauma. I.e. having a tumour certainly isn’t, seizures can result from tumours, as can strokes due to the hypercoagulable state caused by some cancers. As for muscular dystrophy, I honestly don’t know much about that. Regardless of these particular disorders in this particular case, head injuries are very serious and very real.

all to say:
Xen, take that point to heart that you shouldn’t take punishment for no reason, don’t fight in an unsafe organization that will allow strikes to the back of the head, etc, BUT these disorders are not likely directly caused by the trauma, perhaps exacerbated though.
Of course, ONLY my humble opinion and my heart goes out to the guy.

Hope I calmed your nerves a bit.

[quote]Mr. Luke wrote:
Just a couple points:

  1. all the sympathy in the world to this guy, I really hope whatever treatment he recieves goes well.
  2. totally agree with the point of his post. MMA is a sport, and must be treated as such. It is not the only proving ground for manhood, tap to fight another day. There’s nothing manly about being ignorant of the facts that you’re taking unhealthy abuse. Supporting the “badass” culture of MMA where people are just SO tough they don’t tap makes us all look foolish. Compete, be tough, but be smart.
  3. I’m a first year med student with an undergrad in psych, and admittedly I haven’t covered some of the disorders he’s afflicted with, but it think its important to note that there are a lot of factors at play that would make me suspect his symptoms aren’t necessarily causally linked to the head trauma. I.e. having a tumour certainly isn’t, seizures can result from tumours, as can strokes due to the hypercoagulable state caused by some cancers. As for muscular dystrophy, I honestly don’t know much about that. Regardless of these particular disorders in this particular case, head injuries are very serious and very real. all to say:
    Xen, take that point to heart that you shouldn’t take punishment for no reason, don’t fight in an unsafe organization that will allow strikes to the back of the head, etc, BUT these disorders are not likely directly caused by the trauma, perhaps exacerbated though.
    Of course, ONLY my humble opinion and my heart goes out to the guy.

Hope I calmed your nerves a bit.[/quote]

I have to agree 100%…If your fighting do it in a sanctioned organization…That way you can put your trust into the ref. to stop it when its necissary, also in a sanctioned fight there is no way in hell they would alow you to take a massive beating to the back of your head. This sucks for this young man and the moral of the story is great, however you would be hard pressed to find yourself in this situation if you and your fight coach were going into legit sanctioned fights.

This is the one thing that keeps me from actually going ahead and fighting. A broken bone or torn tendon/ligament will heal in time. A busted brain on the other hand, likely won’t.

[quote]Madman2 wrote:
This is the one thing that keeps me from actually going ahead and fighting. A broken bone or torn tendon/ligament will heal in time. A busted brain on the other hand, likely won’t.[/quote]

I’m in the same boat. I’ve only been training for a few months now, and have competed in BJJ just once, but eventually I’d love to take the skills to a competitive arena, but its just seems so risky at a low level.

One bad ref or jerk for an opponent and you can be screwed the rest of your life. Has anyone here had some experiences with their first step into the ring/cage they could share? How’d it work out?

It works out just fine as long as you bring a corner man and your well prepared and your in a sanctioned event…The state runs sanctioned events and they dont want this to happen just as bad as you dont want it to happen. I have been training for over 14years and I have been fighting for 10 of those…Everything from full contact Karate to Sambo and MMA…

I have been hit very very hard and KO’d several times in training…I have had alot of joint injuries as well, Im still functioning properly, I own my own buisness and Im a MMA coach…Getting hit in the head has not caused any issues for me…it just taught me to keep my hands up.

Seriously. Repeated strikes to the back of the head? Any ref for the event I fight for would stop that immediately. They stress very stringently in the rules meeting about hitting the back of the head. That was the problem there.

Didnt read the original thread, and maybe my laziness will make me end up totally wrong, but some of what this guy says sticks out in my mind:

I’d say this is generally not the smartest strategy, especially if you do it every fight…

Dude’s brave, but we have weight classes now for a REASON.

Again, we don’t have tournaments anymore for a REASON.

Most respectable organizations BAN punching to the back of the head; it does happen now and again but the ref is supposed to step in. Obviously this guy was fighting in some piece of shit organization and he paid the price.

REALLLLLLLYYYYY? This is like driving a car while blind. Fucking dumb. You don’t have equilibrium for a YEAR and you decide to keep fighting even when you know you can’t take a shot?? WOW. Apparently the brain damage had already set in by this point. The guy’s got a warrior’s heart but you gotta know when you’re done.

How about, “Taking repeated headshots as a strategy, fighting multiple opponents in one night in open weight class tournaments, fighting in shitty organizations run by wrestling nerds seeking vengeance, and continually failing to accept that you should QUIT FIGHTING due to obvious problems with your HEAD is absolutely nothing to play with.”

On top of all this, who knows if the guy even saw a doctor after his fights to get a check up? Who knows if he went out drinking after his fights or did some other bullshit we dont know about to make his injuries worse? There are a lot of other factors to consider here.

But, as one guy above put it so elegantly, “This the game.”

Obviously MMA is a dangerous sport, and if you aren’t willing to accept the fact that you could end up with major injuries or even possibly dying, then it’s not the sport for you.

But if you want to have a long career and minimize potential damage, fight smart, train smart, and compete in respectable organizations with intelligent rules. Lesson learned.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/01/26/athlete.brains/index.html?iref=mpstoryview

Several of you need to reread the original post because you are doing some serious rationalizing. This guys condition has little to do with not being in a sanctioned event or just that one bad working over.

He started out saying he was a tough guy, who would show how tough he was by letting other guys hit him in the head. There was a guy who did that on the last season of TUF.

It is a really dumb strategy to let people hit you in the head to show them how tough you are. On the street it will get you killed.

This guys downfall is he was trying too hard to be a tough guy and not being honest with himself.

If you read his story carefully you will see that after he got the severe beatdown he had problems for a year but they cleared up enough that he started training again. He soon found that he couldn’t take a punch like he used to but he still went out and fought and got one more beatdown.

One of the biggest problems with Yang style martial arts is in order to be a hard ass we teach ourselves to live in denial. We teach ourselves to have so much denial that when a highly trained martial artist unloads on us with a perfect technique that does damage we can just shrug it off as something that didn’t happen. We might even live by some stupid slogan like it’s not pain it’s merely weakness leaving the body.

The reality is pain is caused by damage and damage is weakness entering the body.

Denial helps you to be a real hardass so you to learn to live with pain. The problem with that is you get so used to living with pain that you stop taking it as a warning sign.

This guy had his warning but denied that he had been damaged. So he had to try it one more time. Now he is wrecked, he has to admit that he is not indestructible because now he has no choice.

There are a lot of people like that out there. They get into adrenaline junky sports and lose their perspective.

That is why even if you are honest with no one else, you have to be honest with yourself.

so DeNiro’s character in Raging Bull isn’t one to emulate then…

I have been out of martial arts for a while now, but back when I was in regular practice injuries weren’t uncommon for me as the youngest, smallest guy in our small group.
I felt I had to prove myself to my fellow students. thankfully I practiced Kung-Fu, and never took a truly hard shot to the head.
we did lots of Chin Na (joint manipulation) usually leading to some strained tendons on my part because I just wouldn’t give up.
my Sifu taught me much about humilty as the way to true learning in the art.
the same is true in many aspects of life.

Unfortunately this is a facet of any contact sport. The chance of severe head injury in football is just as, or more common, but the variability of the situations during a fight and people’s preconceived notions of MMA and Boxing as blood sports plays into the equation. Consequently, I think that combat sports attract active personality types that reinforce the whole ‘I’ll never tap - tough guy philosophy’.

Further, fans that denounce fighters, who yield when at risk of severe injury are also to blame. “That guy’s got no heart, he gave up after just 20 minutes!”
Despite the fact that ref’s are usually commission certified (if legit) they are subject to delayed reaction and misjudgment as well. I’ve reffed 100’s of fights and still sometimes under-estimate a fighter’s risk potential in situations where the action is fierce or constant give and take.

While a good ref knows that you can never take a fighter’s word (or his corner’s) on his well being, you also don’t want to screw him on his livelihood. As a professional, a fighter and his coach must ultimately protect his best interest.
Humility is a virtue, and a lot of fighter’s would be well off if they learned this lesson early in their careers.

That said I feel guilty at how exciting I found every 'Gatti vs Ward’fight…

[quote]Mr. Luke wrote:
all to say:
Xen, take that point to heart that you shouldn’t take punishment for no reason, don’t fight in an unsafe organization that will allow strikes to the back of the head, etc, BUT these disorders are not likely directly caused by the trauma, perhaps exacerbated though.
Of course, ONLY my humble opinion and my heart goes out to the guy.

Hope I calmed your nerves a bit.[/quote]

Sometimes its not the organization or the fights themselves. One of the boxing gyms I joined as I started getting serious had some of the most brutal sparring matches I’ve ever experienced. The sparring made the fights seem easy, if you were still able fight and not fucked up from the sparring. Gym wars, ring wars whatever you want to call them, have probably put the kibosh on more than a couple of promising fighters. So again, watch out for yourself out there.

An ironic thing is that if they took away gloves and hand taping, brain injuries would go down exponentially. MMA is still way safer than boxing in this regard. It is funny how they add gloves for their percieved ‘safety’ but in reality, it makes it more dangerous.

I think it’s pretty obvious that being punched repeatedly in the head can never be a good thing. That’s why there are sanctioning bodies and that’s why there are referees. Even so, there is still a risk and danger of permanent injury.

Anyone who steps into the cage with the intent of engaging in physical combat with a trained fighter should be willing to accept these risks. Otherwise, don’t fight.

For this reason, the referees in MMA are among the best and well trained Ive seen in any sport. The lives of those they are officiating depend on it. If you don’t trust the sanctioning body, then find one you do.

With the exception of a few freakish permanent injuries, MMA still remains relatively safe compared to other mainstream sports.

Next time you guys watch an event, pay extra attention to the referee. Every single thing they do is with the intention of making it as safe as possible for the fighters involved.