Dangerous weight cutting practices have been attracting an ever increasing spotlight in the combat sports community. The Association of Ringside Physicians have now weighed in on the issue providing the following press release (ARP Weight Cut Reform Press Release) calling for reform:
Unhealthy and sometimes dangerous weight loss practices continue to be a
significant problem in amateur and professional combat sports. The ARP
recommends that regulatory bodies adopt standardized weigh-in policies in
conjunction with year-round weight management and educational programs.
There is a growing body of information in the medical literature that presents
unequivocal evidence of the danger of excessive weight loss, rapid weight loss, and
repeated cycling of weight gain and loss. Rapid weight loss and dehydration have
been proven to negatively affect a number of health-related parameters including:
physical performance, cardiovascular function, temperature regulation, hormonal
balance, nutritional status, neurologic function, mental performance, and energy
utilization. These may cause life-threatening muscle breakdown, shock, heat illness,
kidney failure, and electrolyte imbalances, in addition to placing the athlete at
increased injury risk. Additionally, the possible relationship between dehydration
and predisposition to concussion requires more investigation. Significant
dehydration also puts the athlete at risk of improper rehydration techniques — when,
in reality, proper re-hydration requires hours to days.
The prevalence of these problems is significant. One recent study found that 39% of
MMA fighters were entering competition in a dehydrated state. Many cases of
dehydrated athletes using intravenous fluids to re-hydrate after weigh-ins have been
reported – considered a doping violation with several international organizations.
Heat illness and death in athletes have been previously documented in the sports of
wrestling and MMA. Weight management regulations for boxing/MMA competitors
are warranted to mitigate improper weight loss techniques contributing to severe
dehydration and starvation and their complications.
A number of organizations including the National Collegiate Athletic Association
(NCAA) have adopted rules to minimize unhealthy weight loss in weight–classified
sports. The rules emphasize hydration and body composition assessment to identify
an individual’s proper weight class, and provide a safe, gradual, weekly weight
control plan (gain or loss) to achieve same if desired. The new regulations were
subsequently investigated for their effectiveness and were reported to be successful
by minimizing unhealthy weight loss, excessive weight fluctuations, and competition
at weight classes inappropriate for a given athlete. It is noted that the effectiveness
and success of protocols such as same day weigh-ins are directly tied to proper
weight management programs.
The ARP recommends standardized weigh-in policies in conjunction with year round
weight management programs. These would include scheduling weigh-ins
twenty four hours or less before the start of competition. Therefore, establishing a
lowest allowed fighting weight (weight class) for competitors through body
composition and hydration assessment is essential. Combatants should be assessed
and certified at biased examiners, in conjunction with licensure, and stored in an
international data bank accessible to athletic regulatory bodies. In this light, the
ARP will be estabtheir appropriate weight annually. This assessment should be
completed by non-lishing a medical database to provide this and other resources.
Regulatory bodies should also consider adding additional weight classes in certain
sports where needed
Additionally, in order for an athlete to maintain proper weight control and optimal
body composition, a continual commitment to proper diet and training is required.
Educational programs should be established to inform coaches, athletes,
administrators, promoters and sponsors about the adverse consequences of prolonged
fasting and dehydration on performance and health. These programs should
discourage the use of extreme methods for making weight; i.e., excessive heat
methods (such as rubberized suits, steam rooms, hot boxes, saunas), excessive
exercise, induced vomiting, laxatives and diuretics. Nutritional programs should
also be instituted to emphasize and meet an athlete’s individual needs for adequate
daily caloric intake from a balanced diet high in healthy carbohydrates, the minimum
requirement of fat, and appropriate amounts of protein.
The ARP wishes to thank Alan C. Utter, Ph.D., M.P.H., FACSM, Appalachian State
University, Boone, NC for his dedicated assistance in the development of this