The popularity of mixed martial arts (MMA) continues to grow in the United States and abroad. The purpose of this study was to report injury rates and types in MMA and analyze potential variance of injuries between different competition levels, match outcomes, and match winners and losers.
A retrospective review of injuries sustained by fighters during MMA contests in 2018-2019 was performed using ringside physician post-match injury reports from Wisconsin and Arizona. Injury prevalence was compared between Arizona vs. Wisconsin, level of competition, match winners vs. losers, and match result. The prevalence of broader injury types was compared by state, competition level match result, and match winners vs. losers. Statistical analysis was performed using a Chi-square (x2) test with significance set at p < 0.05.
In 502 contests, 285 (57%) had at least 1 reported injury. In these 285 matches, participants suffered 401 total injuries: 197 (49%) in professional bouts and 204 (51%) in amateur bouts. The match injury rate was higher in professional bouts than in amateur contests (68% vs. 51%, p < 0.001) (Table 1). Amateur fighters experienced more contusions and hematomas (31% vs. 22%, p < 0.001), while professional fighters experienced more lacerations (39% vs. 23%, p < 0.001). Losers exhibited a higher match injury rate than winners (48% vs. 24%, p<0.001). Winners experienced more fractures (19% vs. 9%, p = 0.005) and losers experienced more concussions (17% vs. 2%, p < 0.001).
Professional fighters and losers of MMA bouts exhibited higher injury rates relative to amateurs and winners. The prevalence of specific injury types varied by competition level, match result, and match winners vs. losers. The results of this study may be used to better understand the current injury profile in MMA and to develop targeted strategies for injury prevention.