“It’s just a scratch” blurted out Razzak when pointed out by his coach regarding the discoloration on his thigh. Three days later Razzak was undergoing surgery for drainage of an abscess which had developed in his thigh and involved his leg as well. This is supposedly an event of neglect in a martial arts scenario. Injuries sustained during fight are taken in the “macho” image and not much attention is paid, the result…trivial injuries ending up in major disasters detrimental to health as well as finances of the afectee and his family.
Ever since the Gladiatorial days, fighters used to suffer from skin infections, which started out as small boils and resulted in abscess and pus filled cavities. The same is true in the modern era too. With the advent of antibiotics, we may have come far from the dark ages, but the neglect to personal care hasn’t improved the infection rate among MMA fighters. Sweat, blood and humidity are the key factors responsible for skin infections among combatants. Worse still, it is contagious, whole platoons in the army are rendered useless just because a single solider fell prey to an infection which spread among troops and resulted in inevitable casualties. The same holds true for MMA .The level of hygiene practiced by combatants and the clubs need an overhaul in themselves. Damp environment, sweat, blood all provides an inoculum to bacterial and fungal growth.
Avoiding the technical jargon, the training in itself isn’t free from contamination. Moist shirts, gloves and underpants provide ideal environment for fungal and bacterial growth. Mats used for practice are also the training ground of hosts of bugs that have been transmitted due to close contact. There is a need to enforce stringent hygiene principles among MMA players. The slightest of scratch needs to be observed for color changes or any discharge. Wounds inflicted need to be thoroughly irrigated and dressed, with subsequent checkups by a qualified physician. Fighters suffering from skin infections need to be barred for the period from participating in any club activity. Club owners and organizers need to be vigilant for signs of any infection among the fighters. Taking shower before and after workout needs to be advocated and use of clippers instead of shaving the chest and underarms has shown improvement in the rate of skin infections. The mats used for training or sparring need to be taken out and properly cleaned by disinfectant on a weekly basis. Blood spilled during fights need to be cleaned with a solution of bleach. While designing the “dojo” or club, proper ventilation and provision for adequate sunlight be ensured. It is through constant struggle and drive to improve ourselves that we can truly practice MMA in a disease free environment.
This article has been written by Dr. Arshad Beg who is a surgical registrar specializing in General Surgery. He works at Liaquat National Hospital Karachi and has a keen interest in MMA.
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