Background: Professional mixed martial arts (MMA) competition has emerged as a full contact sport that has risen rapidly in popularity. However, there is limited information regarding the incidence of competition injuries following sanctioning by an athletic commission.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study to examine MMA injury patterns during a five year period following sanctioning in the state of Nevada. Data from all regulated MMA competitions during the study period from March 2002 to September 2007 (n=1,270 fight exposures) was obtained. Injury odds ratios were calculated by conditional logistic regression on match outcome, age, weight and fight experience using a pair-matched case-control design (n=464) and by multiple logistic regression on match outcome, age, fight experience, weight, combat minutes, and scheduled rounds.
Results: During the 635 professional MMA matches, 300 of the 1,270 athletes sustained documented injuries with an injury rate of 23.6 per 100 fight participations. Most common reported injuries were lacerations and upper extremity injuries. Severe concussion rate was 16.5 per 1,000 athlete exposures, or 3.3% of all matches. No deaths or critical sports-related injuries resulted from any of the regulated matches during the study period. Age, weight, and fight experience did not statistically increase the likelihood of injuries after controlling for other covariates.
Conclusions: Injury rates in regulated professional MMA competition are similar to other combat sports; the overall risk of critical sports-related injury appears low. Additional study is warranted to achieve a better understanding of injury trends and ways to further lower injury risk in MMA.
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