Ever since martial arts have been adopted as sports, there have been controversies regarding the “safety” of such activities. With contact sports comes the risk of injuries, both trivial and life threatening. With certain groups such as the Canadian-based doctors forum seeking a complete ban on the sport of MMA, there needs to be an understanding of the risks involved in the sport. MMA is growing quickly; it is already a big multimillion-dollar industry worldwide. In the USA alone, the UFC is valued at more than 1.5 billion dollars. It is a revenue-earning arena as well. The argument that health professionals present, is that it is a sport aimed at maiming and disabling your opponent.
In Pakistan, the MMA scene is evolving and there is rapid progress being made in the sport. With new clubs popping up and seasoned fighters across the country training a new generation of MMA fighters, one thing is for sure: MMA is here to stay and progress. We are an ambitious bunch of people and there is no dearth of talent in the country. However, there needs to be some emphasis placed on the education of the “combatants” regarding the risks associated with the sport. In contact sports, the fighters need to understand the fact that they should not be suffering from any blood borne disease. In most countries, fighters need to be cleared by a medical board before they can participate. Blood tests such as Hepatitis B & C testing, along with HIV, are mandatory for every fighter before he even thinks of taking up a contact sport. The risk of injury to the head is ever present; with a few deaths reported, it might be prudent for the authorities to allow the use of headgear and gloves for the competitions. Wearing gloves is allowed internationally and is at the discretion of the panel organizing the event. Proper boxing gloves might reduce the number of grievous injuries sustained. Furthermore, most up-and-comers in the sport are youth and they need to be aware of the importance of warming up and conditioning, both of which help in reducing injuries. The list of possible injuries is a long one, being safe does not mean that one abandons the sport. Rather, caution should be exercised. Trainers should advocate safety and adherence to rules for all the trainees. Provision of a qualified doctor and health staff should be made mandatory for all clubs organizing MMA events.
Though the medical community is currently not much involved, with increased awareness and streamlining of the MMA scene, we may see more specialists involved and contributing towards a safety-conscious sporting trend.
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.