Study – MMA Fighters Sustain Worse Wrist/Hand Damage than Boxers

Adding to this site’s database of combative sports safety studies, a paper was recently published comparing the extent of hand/wrist injuries for MMA athletes compared to boxers.

In the study, titled “Degenerative changes in the hand and wrist in elite MMA fighting – an MRI study in comparison to boxing” 11 MMA fighters and 10 boxers with chronic wrist pain were clinically examined.  The authors noted that “The MMA fighters had more often and more severe degenerative changes of all examined structures“.

The full abstract reads as follows:

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a combination of multiple combat sports. Acute injuries in MMA are well known and have been broadly described. However, there is little knowledge about degenerative changes in the musculoskeletal system. The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of techniques used in MMA on the occurrence of degenerative changes in the hand and wrist in comparison to classical boxing.11 MMA fighters and 10 boxers with chronic wrist pain were clinically examined. Age, weight, years of training, number of fights, level of competition and weekly hours of training were recorded. To determine degenerative changes, an MRI of the symptomatic hand was assessed.Years of training, level of competition and number of fights did not show a significant difference between MMA and boxing fighters (p > 0.05), but MMA fighters showed significantly more hours of training per week (p < 0.001). The MMA fighters had more often and more severe degenerative changes of all examined structures (bone, fibrocartilage, ligaments and tendons), with the category “bone” reaching significance (p = 0.002).MMA athletes show significantly greater incidence and degree of degeneration in hand and wrist joints. The exact reasons are still unknown and further research is needed to determine the influence of MMA techniques on the severity of degenerative changes in the hand and wrist.

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