Growing popularity of Mixed Martial Arts and Roller Derby reveal unique injury patterns
BALTIMORE – Two of the fastest growing sports in the United States, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Roller Derby, share a reputation as violent exhibitions with frequent injuries. As interest in these ruff and tumble bouts grows, the number of injuries is likely to grow as well. Two studies presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 57th Annual Meeting in Baltimore suggest sports medicine physicians will need to understand the injury patterns of these two sports to improve emergent medical care.
Matthew H.C. Otten, D.O., and a group of investigators from of Michigan-based Beaumont Hospital, studied 304 professional MMA fighters in 152 fights within the sport’s premier league, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Among the fighters, only 102 reported injuries. Most injuries occurred in the case of a Technical Knockout (TKO) or Knockout (KO). Face and head injuries were most common (28.1%) with facial and soft tissue lacerations the most common diagnosis (19.2%) followed by facial bone fractures (4.6%). Remarkably, of the 34 fighters sent for a CT scan, all were negative for brain and vascular abnormalities and no brain bleeds.
“As a spectator, mixed martial arts looks like an immensely brutal sport, yet the incident of injury is relatively low,” Otten said. “However, because of the tremendous growth of MMA and the popularity of UFC, it is important for medical professionals to understand these types of injuries in order to make ring-side evaluations and decisions.”
Meanwhile, Lee Kneer, M.D., University of Utah School of Medicine Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, led an survey of 918 dolls (as the female athletes are referred to in the world of roller derby) with 83% of respondents reporting at least one injury and half reporting two or more injuries. Knee injuries were most common (46%) followed by injuries to the foot/ankle (15%) and shoulder (12%). Most dolls reported an incomplete recovery (70%). Nearly 75% of injuries occurred during practice and most were related to overuse (79%).
“The occasions for and types of injuries in roller derby suggest a need to look at prevention techniques for roller derby athletes,” Kneer said. “Leagues across the country have varying degrees of regulations related to safety. Perhaps this type of research can improve safety of the athletes as well.”
While injuries from more traditional sports such as baseball, basketball and soccer are not going away, the rise of extreme sports such as MMA and roller derby exposes the need for a new breed of sports physician.
The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 35,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.
The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine.