Injuries Commonly Seen in Combat Sports

In all sports, there is a fundamental understanding and expectation that participants will exert their bodies to the threshold of demand (and sometimes beyond this demand) in order to secure victory. However, when the body loses the ability to tolerate forces applied to it, we see injuries occur. This can be seen, for instance, when a jumper’s Achilles tendon cannot withstand the forces applied to it during a landing and inevitably strains or worse yet, ruptures. When you take into account that in combat sports, there is now an adversarial participant who is trying to inflict upon your forces to overwhelm you through striking, takedowns, and submissions, we can see that the risk for injuries may be more prominent in mixed martial arts compared to any other sport.

Recently, the Ultimate Fighting Championship Performance Institute (@UFCPI) did a study to determine what were the most common injuries fighters experienced, what was the mechanism for the injury, and whether there was a difference in injury types while competing versus training. The results were quite interesting. From June 2017-2018, the UFCPI managed and treated 220 individuals and 322 injuries (248 being sustained during competition). Injuries by body part were distributed in this order:


Area of Injury:                                Injury rate:

Head/Face/Concussions:                  77.8%

Wrist/Hand:                                      19.5%

Knee:                                                   15.6%

Foot:                                                    10.7%

Shoulder:                                            9.7%

Lower Leg:                                          5.3%

Elbow:                                                 4.8%


Area of Injury:                                Injury Rate:

Knee:                                                   37%

Shoulder:                                            18.5%

Wrist/Hand:                                      14.8%

Neck:                                                    7.4%

Forearm:                                             7.4%

Elbow:                                                 7.4%

Ankle:                                                  7.4%

It can be concluded that whether you are a combat sports athlete or enthusiast every body part can be considered an area of risk, with head/face/concussions being higher in prevalence during competition and knee injuries being higher in prevalence with training. More information on specific types of injuries, the severity of injuries from a discipline of fighting, and much more can be found in the link below. Having an understanding of which areas of the body are under greater demand and risk allows for a skilled clinician to formulate plans with their athletes to reduce injury risk and increase performance.

Reference: A Cross-Sectional Performance Analysis And Projection of the UFC Athlete. UFCPI


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