CTE is a part of combat sports. In fact the disease, which used to be called dementia pugilistica (ie “punch drunk”) has its origins traced back to boxing.
MMA is not immune from CTE. It is a real risk. Several athletes likely have the disease with fighters such as Gary Goodridge being diagnosed with CTE and being vocal about its realities. Despite the high likelihood that many MMA athletes have CTE it is a diagnosis that cannot be made definitively until death as study of brain tissue is required.
Now, the Boston Globe Reports, MMA has its first proven case of CTE.
Former Bellator fighter, Jordan Parsons, who was recently killed in a pedestrian/vehicle collision, has been diagnosed with CTE post-mortem.
The Globe reports as follows:
Now, six months after he was struck and killed as a pedestrian by an alleged drunken driver, Parsons is the first fighter in the multibillion-dollar MMA industry to be publicly identified as having been diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)
The diagnosis was disclosed to the Globe by Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist who first discovered CTE in a professional football player (in 2003) and a professional wrestler (2007).
Omalu provides the following grounded and sober comments “As a scientist, a physician, and a person of faith, I beg everybody involved with these sports to come together and identify the problems and find solutions’’
Combat Sports athletes should participate only with informed consent of the sport’s real dangers. Comments calling MMA “the safest sport in the world” do no favors. Informed consent only comes from an acknowledgement and understanding of the science of CTE and its links to acute and repetitive head trauma.
Regulators also must grapple with this reality both in making informed choices as to when an athlete has been exposed to too much mileage and when considering safety issues such as the fact that gloves, while making for more exciting fights, do much to increase the likelihood of brain trauma.