MMA vs boxing: Which is more dangerous?
We often hear from people who don't like mixed martial arts. Usually that happens when either it's too violent for them, or because they make assumptions about something they haven't seen.
"It's human cockfighting!" "It's just a bar brawl in a cage!" "It's insanely dangerous!"
The first two are a judgment call. But that third complaint is one we can address.
Johns Hopkins says MMA is much, much less dangerous than boxing, and for several reasons.
First, in MMA, when you get clocked, the fight is likely over very soon afterwards. In boxing, you get a standing eight count, then someone continues to beat on your head.
Any MMA fan will tell you that, within about 40 secons after a knock out, most losing fighters are back on their feet shaking hands with the winner. They're probably concussed, sore, a little woozy, but the fight is over. There will be no more punishment this day. Compare that to boxing, where you could be what MMA would consider "knocked out" three times before the fight is stopped.
The second reason MMA is safer is the smaller gloves. Looking at them, you'd think traditional boxing gloves would be safer because there's more padding, but there's also more surface area, so more of your head is being hit, and it's not one sudden smack that gives a fighter long term damage... it's repetitive hits, both during a fight and in training.
That's the third reason MMA is safer - you don't train by getting punched in the head. But in boxing, sparring with headgear is commonplace, and the Johns Hopkins study shows that ongoing hits to the head does more long term damage to the brain.
The fourth reason: MMA isn't just about being punched in the face. Most fighters spend more time on the floor, or in the clinch, than they do striking. Indeed, many MMA fights have ended without a punch landing.
The fifth reason: Shorter fights. Boxing matches can go an hour, but MMA fights are three round affairs unless they're title fights (those go five rounds). Less time swinging = less time being swung at.
And, lastly, just to put one common accusation to rest, Muhammed Ali did not get Parkinson's Disease from being punched in the head. Ali's thought process is still cogent, it's his nerves that aren't functioning as they should, and you don't get that kind of affliction through head trauma, you get it because you get it.
In fact, some Parkinson's patients are using boxing training to combat the disease, with startlingly impressive results.
Bottom line: There have been two recorded deaths in mixed martial arts. Douglas Dedge died in 1998 after a fight on an unregulated card in Kiev, Ukraine, and in 2007, Sam Vasquez died from injuries sustained in a fight in Houston.
At the same time, the Journal of Combative Sport has documented 71 deaths since 1993 in boxing.
So the next time someone complains to you about the violence in MMA and what it will do to those who participate, point them to this page and remind them that nobody has ever died from a cauliflower ear.
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