There are many documented cases of injury in MMA due to the profound dehydration that comes with rapid extreme weight cutting. Perhaps the most dangerous risk is that of increased brain trauma and death that comes from being exposed to strikes while not being fully hydrated. As this industry wide practice is becoming better recognized by the public more calls for regulatory reform are being made.
The latest comes from the British Journal of Sports Medicine who, this month, published an article reviewing local rapid extreme weight cut practices and noted “an alarming culture of weight making.”.
The practices from the athletes surveyed revealed as follows –
- In total, 67% of athletes engaged in a previously unreported practice of ‘waterloading’, whereby athletes reduce sodium intake and overdrink water (eg, 20–23 Lover 3 days), in the belief it will trigger a ‘flushing mode’ to induce excessive urine production.
- Several athletes (17%) reported the use of solutions to increase sweating by increasing circulation
eg, Sweet sweat) or by blocking the pores (eg, Albolene).
- Athletes (37%) consumed prescription and over-the-counter diuretics and
- 13% utilized intravenous lines (1 self-administered, 3 administered by a physician) and glycerol to encourage rehydration post-weigh-in.
- In total, 73% of athletes consumed nutritional supplements during weight-cutting, though 61% did not know whether supplements were tested for banned substances
- One hundred per cent of the MMA athletes engaged in complete fasting or low carbohydrate diets in the final 3–5 days prior to weigh-in thereby promoting ‘relative energy deficiency’
- Only 20% of athletes obtained dietary advice from qualified sports dietitians/nutritionists, with the majority of advice provided from coaches, peers and internet sources.
The physicians called for regulatory reform for these practices, including the practice I have been most vocal about, namely adding a hydration requirement for athletes when they make weight. Yes this will drastically alter the current landscape of weight classes athletes are used to competing in but it will restore sanity to the reason weight classes exist in the first place – protection of the fighters,
Specifically the BJSM requests that regulators schedule “weigh-ins 24 h or less before competition alongside minimal hydration acceptable limits.”
The full study can be found here – Alarming Weight Cutting Practices in MMA