New Banner Concussion Center study finds overwhelming lack of combat sport protocol

PHOENIX – In a recent issue of the peer-reviewed medical journal, The Physician and Sportsmedicine, a researcher at Phoenix-based Banner Concussion Center, writes about his concerning findings of the lack of protocols and oversight for athletes competing in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fights. As these popular extreme fighting contests continue to grow in popularity, so too do the corresponding number of unreported and untreated head trauma and concussion injuries.

Unlike the NFL or professional boxing, regulatory oversight in MMA only occurs in training. In addition, the diagnosis for head injury in combat sports relies most often on the attending ringside physician and, yet there is no systematic or mandatory reporting of mild head injuries in combat sports making it impossible to accurately estimate concussion rates. 

In the study, Banner Concussion sports trainer and researcher Bryce Nalepa, estimates head injury rates of 228 per 1,000 concussion incidences and half of these are cerebral injuries that go unreported and untreated. During a measured 10-year period, nearly 28 percent of all MMA matches were stopped due to various head trauma. 

“A thorough review of current literature suggests a lack of empirical data about concussion rates among combat sport athletes at any level of competition, said Nalepa. “Further, only 13 percent of MMA athletes reporting post-concussion symptoms after a knockout, seek medical attention of post-concussive issues.”

Napela and others are urging for increased monitoring and protocols of combat sports to ensure these athletes are treated as needed and that such a protocol will begin a conversation among medical professional that advances concussion evaluation and management in combat athletes and fighter safety.

Headquartered in Arizona, Banner Health is one of the largest nonprofit health care systems in the country. The system owns and operates 28 acute-care hospitals, Banner Health Network, Banner – University Medicine, academic and employed physician groups, long-term care centers, outpatient surgery centers and an array of other services; including Banner Urgent Care, family clinics, home care and hospice services, pharmacies and a nursing registry. Banner Health is in six states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming.