Stressing the Importance of Defense for Career Longevity in Young Fighters


If you haven't seen the movie "Concussion" with Will Smith, then you should.

Especially if you or someone you love is involved in an sport that involves multiple head traumas as so many of the martial arts do. Yes, we want that win, but at what and whose expense? With more exposure being given on CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, we now have to stop and evaluate just how important it is to practice a good defense mechanism to aid in fighters longevity. Their safety is priority. 

What is CTE?

As described in the Mayo Clinic, "Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is the term used to describe brain degeneration likely caused by repeated head traumas. CTE is a very rare condition. It has been found in the brains of people who played contact sports, such as football, as well as others. Some symptoms of CTE are thought to include difficulties with thinking (cognition), physical problems, emotions and other behaviors. CTE is a very controversial condition that is still not well-understood. Researchers do not yet know the frequency of CTE in the population and do not understand the causes. There is no cure for CTE" .

Scary, isn't it. It is a condition that got swept under the mat for many years by NFL and football players in order to save the sport and franchises, until one doctor made a miraculous discovery during an autopsy, and was brave enough to fight the odds against him and speak up about his findings. There is still much to be learned on the condition, but one thing is for sure, it occurs from multiple head injuries, and it is now being recognized and brought to the public eye.

What is the Relation Between CTE and MMA, Boxing and Fighting?

Testing CTE in fighter is still in the early stages, but one thing is for sure. The study has already show sufficient evidence in at least one area and that is the correlation between fighting and decreased brain volume. The more fights you've had, or the more blows to the head, the lower the brain volume measures. Lower volumes have been shown to be decreases scoring on cognitive tests and degenerative mental performance. For years, people thought MMA was a safer choice in sports over boxing and football, but now they are not so sure. There is significant evidence showing it is just as detrimental to brain function and longevity.

How Important is Defense in Fighting?

It is literally the most important thing in any sport. Defend yourself against injury. It is why we use mats, headgear, sparring equipment and training methods. Demetrius Johnson, the UFC flyweight champion says it best when asked about his advice to young MMA fighters. 

"[They] need to work on not taking so much damage, because I want [them] to have a long career. When [they're] done fighting, I don't want [them] to look back at [their] fights and [hear], 'Oh man, you were such a [great] fighter, you did this and [that].' I want [them]to look back at [their] careers and [hear], 'Man, you did such a good job of not taking any damage, and look, you have something to show for it. You have a 15-year career, instead of a short three or four years because of all the concussions you've taken." 

This is sound, good advice to be taken to heart.

Protection for the Younger Fighters

Safe habits to avoid injury start an an early age in martial arts. Trained instructors know what levels to teach kids at and what they are capable of doing without hurting themselves or each, other both mentally and physically. They are then advanced through more complex training, fighting and sparring as they mature. 

● One of the first things instilled that develops protection for children and young fighters is technique. If a punch or kick is delivered incorrectly, it can cause injury to the foot or arm, break bones and cause bruises.

● Protective gear such as headgear, body pads and mouthguards should always be worn. This is a must for adult and children.

● The environment in which the practice takes place in is just as important. The mats and floors should be safe for training. Even the smallest gaps between mats can cause injuries such as sprained ankles, and wet and worn out flooring can cause slips and falls. 

● And most importantly, hits to the head should always be avoided. Discipline learned through out training can teach self control when delivering hits of any kind to any area of the body in an effort to avoid injury to both parties.

Common Injuries

But listen. It is martial arts, and it's a combat sport. No matter what precautions are taken, there will most likely be injuries. However, the goal is to keep them to a minimal, and avoid the head trauma that can cause serious future repercussions, and even death.

● Scrapes and bruises are by far the most common.

● Sprains and strains come in second, with ankles, knees, and elbows are the commonly injured. Most sprains usually take place with incorrect landing, or from falling, punching or blocking. 

● Broken bones usually take place within the finger and toe regions, and are usually the result of punching and kicking padded target with poor technique. 

● Of the most serious of all injuries is the concussion. It is important to know that signs of a concussion are often very subtle, and could take days to even show up. Athletes must be aware that repeated concussions are extremely hazardous and can result in permanent injury.

When training in any martial art form, it is imperative that you find a school and instructors that stresses the importance of defense mechanisms for young fighters. If they do choose a career in the arts, proper training and defense mechanisms from a young age can allow for longevity in their future fighting careers.


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