Study – Rapid Weight Loss Practices in MMA Associated With Negative Mood and Cognitive Symptoms Before and After Competition

Adding to this site’s archived combat sports safety studies, findings were recently published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research noting that MMA athlete that resort to rapid extreme weight loss techniques reported an increase in a host of negative cognitive findings both before and after competition compared to their peers who did not resort to such tactics.

In the recent study titled “Body Weight and Mood State Modifications in Mixed Martial Arts: An Exploratory Pilot” the authors reviewed a number of MMA athletes who did and did not cut rapid amounts of weight.  They asked the athletes to self report various mood and cognitive issues  30 days before competition, at the official weigh-in 1 day before competition, 10 minutes before competition, and 10 minutes postcompetition.  Those athletes who resorted to rapid extreme weight loss techniques reported “higher confusion and greater total mood disturbance at each assessment point. Rapid weight loss also associated with high anger at the official weigh-in“.  Interestingly there was no noted negative impact on competitive results from the practices although there is a well documented list of serious health consequences associated with rapid extreme weight loss in MMA.  The study’s full abstract reads as follows:

Mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters typically use rapid weight loss (RWL) as a strategy to make competition weight. The aim of the present study was to compare body weight and mood changes in professional male MMA athletes who used strategies to rapidly lose weight (n = 9) and with MMA athletes who did not (n = 3). Body mass and mood states of anger, confusion, depression, fatigue, tension, and vigor and total mood disturbance were assessed (a) 30 days before competition, (b) at the official weigh-in 1 day before competition, (c) 10 minutes before competition, and (d) 10 minutes postcompetition. Results indicated that RWL associated with reporting higher confusion and greater total mood disturbance at each assessment point. Rapid weight loss also associated with high anger at the official weigh-in. However, in performance, RWL did not have deleterious effects on performance. The RWL group also reported greater total mood disturbance at all assessment points with a moderate difference effect size. Research supports the notion that RWL associates with potentially dysfunctional mood states.

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