View Full Version : Wat is veiliger, MMA of boksen?

Yamato Damashii
12-06-2007, 00:49
Ik kwam een goed artikel tegen over deze veel gestelde vraag op MMAweekly.com.


The first installment of this series discussed the assertion that a cage is safer than a ring. As a quick follow-up, the main point of the column – that the very idea of a “cage” hurts MMA’s image – would seem to be confirmed by all the recent nonsense comparing MMA to dogfighting. Naysayers see mixed martial artists as caged animals, bred for mayhem. It will be an important battle in the coming years to challenge that notion.

This column is devoted to analysis of the claim made most frequently in defending the safety of MMA. For years, supporters have claimed that mixed martial arts is actually safer than boxing. With the recent hoopla surrounding the Mayweather-De La Hoya fight and constant comparisons between the two sports, this claim has been made even more often. Not limited to web forums or trade media, “MMA is safer than boxing” is the official position taken by the UFC brass in conversation with the mainstream press. As Dana White says, “MMA, where fights often end without punches being thrown, is safer than boxing, where head trauma is guaranteed in every fight” (Toronto Star, 12/13/06) and “There has never been a serious injury or death in the UFC, and I know boxing can't say the same” (Las Vegas Review-Journal, 07/02/06).

While these two quotes would seem to make the same point, they actually present two very different arguments. The first quote is a qualitative statement about the nature of the two sports: MMA involves less head trauma than boxing, making it safer. The second quote presents a quantitative statistical measure of safety: MMA has caused fewer serious injuries and deaths than boxing, proving it is safer.

Therein lies the problem with evaluating which sport is safer. A definitive answer will be hard to come by since no one can agree on what “safe” means. Does it only mean a lower risk of dying or does risk of injury matter too? And if injury is a factor, how serious must the injury be to qualify an activity as unsafe? In addition, an inherent challenge in answering this question is looking beyond the dangers of one individual fight in trying to view the safety of the sport as a whole. How do we weigh immediate injuries that are temporary (like a broken arm) against cumulative, permanent conditions (like dementia pugilistica, or punch drunk syndrome)?

There are no objectively correct answers to these questions; individuals will have to ask themselves what constitutes a safe activity. There are several criteria, however, that are most frequently used to judge the safety of sporting activities.

The first criteria, the one most frequently used by proponents of MMA, is the risk of death. On the surface, it would seem clear that MMA is the safer of the two sports. The statistics don’t lie: In the 13 or so years since the first UFC, there has never been a death resulting from a sanctioned MMA match, whereas several boxers die every year.

Sadly, this clear-cut distinction won’t remain true forever. This is not because MMA is particularly deadly, but because there is some measure of danger inherent in any contact sport, let alone combat sport. People die playing professional football and baseball; teenage girls are killed doing cheerleading routines.

Most deaths in boxing are caused by acute subdural hematoma, which is basically bleeding on the brain caused by sudden head trauma. Any activity that involves blows to the head, MMA included, presents this risk. The fact that there have been no deaths in MMA is likely due to the fact that participation is still low compared to other sports. Safety stats are often calculated using the indicator “deaths per 100,000 participants.” As MMA participation increases past the 100,000 threshold and beyond, especially among amateurs with less skill and conditioning, a fatality is unfortunately inevitable.

Still, based on what we’ve seen so far, the mortality rate for MMA is not likely to match that of boxing. The data over the last 10 years shows an average of eight boxer deaths per year. Even though there are certainly more boxing matches held annually than MMA matches, there are not more boxing bouts held per year than MMA bouts held in the last 13 years combined. Even using 13 years of professional MMA as a sample size equivalent to a year of boxing matches, there still seems to be an eightfold increase in incidences of death in boxing compared to MMA (eight boxer deaths per year versus one death in MMA). Chalk it up to less frequent head trauma as Dana White did or to no standing eight count reducing the risk of Second Impact Syndrome as some have suggested, but if risk of fatality is your only criteria, you can count one for MMA in the safety department.

While MMA fans would probably love to concentrate on the reduced mortality rate (at least until MMA catches up), most rational observers consider the potential for injury an integral component of judging safety. While people are quick to point out that there has never been a serious injury (presumably, things like paralysis, blindness, or anything else that results in permanent impairment) in a sanctioned MMA match, a serious injury in MMA is also unavoidable.

In addition, the people that need the most convincing regarding MMA’s safety are likely not concerned with just serious injury or death. To most non-combat sports fans, safety means low risk of bodily harm, including temporary injuries like broken bones, torn ligaments, or facial lacerations. Using this as a measure, MMA is undoubtedly more dangerous than boxing. Traditional boxing injuries – facial cuts, broken noses, ribs, hands, and orbital bones – are present in MMA as well. But the increased kinetic movement necessary in MMA (takedown attempts, guard passes, grappling) and the musculoskeletal stress of submissions both increase the risk of injury past what one would expect of the simple stand-up techniques of boxing. Indeed, a 2006 study in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that MMA produced 28.6 injuries per 100 fight participants compared to 17.1 injuries per 100 fight participants in boxing.

There is still one injury criterion to explore, and it is an important, but perplexing one. Medical science is still grappling with the issue of concussions and their long-term effects. In the case of boxing, repeated head trauma and concussion has been linked to a neurological condition called dementia pugilistica, or punch drunk syndrome. The damage sustained in a career in boxing combined with the additional head trauma endured in a lifetime of training leaves many retired prizefighters with permanent impairment.

The long-term effects of MMA have yet to be studied in depth, due to the youth of the sport. No one really knows what the long-term effects are. For instance, medical literature suggests that the onset of dementia pugilistica comes approximately 16 years after the sufferer began participation in the sport. The UFC is only 13 years old and most of the sports’ elder statesmen came from backgrounds other than pure mixed martial arts (a background in a different combat sport would cast doubt that the negative effect was because of MMA). It will be some time before we can observe athletes who have trained exclusively in mixed martial arts for 16 years. Until then, it would be difficult for anyone to conclusively determine the long-term effects of professional MMA.

The current literature on concussion statistics in MMA is unpersuasive, but still serves as fodder for opponents of the sport. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly proved this point during his interview of Dana White and Rich Franklin (June 21, 2006). Using data from a 2006 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, O’Reilly made the claim that MMA is more dangerous because the study claims concussion rates are nearly three times higher than in boxing. The truth is, O’Reilly used incorrect data (he used kickboxing’s numbers in place of boxing stats) and the study has severe methodology problems (among other issues, head trauma statistics for boxing are garnered from amateur boxing competitions that use head gear and larger gloves and have shorter fights).

What is clear is that the simple “no deaths or serious injuries” argument is not persuasive enough to settle the debate. The key in making a persuasive case is in separating the thought of an individual fight from consideration of the sport as a whole. With the increased injury rate and existent (though reduced) threat of death or serious injury, it is hard to argue that a single MMA bout is safer than a single boxing match. This is the notion that feeds critics of the sport. But considered over the course of a career, with head trauma accumulated both in the ring and in practice, combined with what seems to be a greater risk of death or serious injury, it is hard to conclude that boxing is the safer of the two sports.

So MMA is the safer sport in toto. But so what? As mentioned before, opinions on safety are personal and subjective, and as sports go, boxing is a pretty poor benchmark for safety. Asserting that MMA is safer than boxing may gain you some traction among sports fans that are familiar with the sport and are accustomed to the idea that two people beating each other up can be (relatively) safe. But let’s not get carried away with the boxing comparisons. The fact is, boxing is only tolerated by the masses because it has a long and storied history. Deep down, most non-fans would probably like to see boxing banned just the same.

One tact might be to challenge people’s perceptions of what is a safe activity. Using fatality, injury, and concussion numbers, MMA is far safer than football, hockey, or even gymnastics. In addition, much of the opposition to MMA indicates a clear Western bias in considering violent behavior. Is a kick, elbow, or knee more violent than a punch? Only Westerners would think so. Attitudes in the Far East, where martial arts have a longer history than boxing does in the West, see these in a more equal light. If anything, punching is the most violent of all the strikes. It is telling that professional Muay Thai requires padding for punches but no such cushioning for elbows, knees, or kicks.

One final tact that might be useful is one that will hopefully become even more so as the sport grows. As of now, 22 states plus the District of Columbia sanction MMA events (45 states, plus DC sanction boxing). As more states regulate MMA competition, the sport will gain legitimacy and traction. With government on board, MMA should be positioned as safe on a level par with the air we breathe, water we drink, and food we eat – all things regulated by the government as well.

The battle for the legitimacy of the sport will have its ups and downs. Eventually and tragically, someone will lose his or her life participating in MMA in America. And though it will almost undoubtedly happen in a small show, possibly even one unregulated by state authorities, it will be the UFC that bears the greatest burden and has the most to lose. One would hope that the UFC (and their PR team) have a strategy in place for placing the message that MMA is safe once something tragic occurs. The message of “only happened a few times” carries far less weight than “never.” It may not be their fault, but as the reigning hegemon of the MMA world, this is certainly the UFC’s problem. They must know by now, with great power comes great responsibility.



12-06-2007, 01:02
ik heb het niet helemaal gelezen... maar denk dat boksen 'gevaarlijker' is, puur door het continu stoten op het lichaam / hoofd en dat 10 / 12 rondes lang (op tko's na dan). Bij MMA eindigd het gevecht 7 van de 10 keer op de grond met een groot percentage submissions en decisions. Ook bij MMA en boksen heb je natuurlijk de hardcore KO's er tussen zitten maar toch minder bij MMA naar mijn idee.

12-06-2007, 02:33
ik heb het niet helemaal gelezen... maar denk dat boksen 'gevaarlijker' is, puur door het continu stoten op het lichaam / hoofd en dat 10 / 12 rondes lang (op tko's na dan). Bij MMA eindigd het gevecht 7 van de 10 keer op de grond met een groot percentage submissions en decisions. Ook bij MMA en boksen heb je natuurlijk de hardcore KO's er tussen zitten maar toch minder bij MMA naar mijn idee.

Ik denk dat je toch maar ff moet lezen dan zie je dat dit
weer zon bericht met de gedachte van 2006 is ;)