Study Finds High Rate of Whiplash Disorders in MMA Athletes

Adding to this site’s combat sports safety studies, a recent study was published in South Africa reviewing the rate of whiplash associated disorders in Mixed Martial Arts.

In the recent study, titled Prevalence and Severity of Whiplash Associated Disorders in Mixed Martial Arts Athletes, the authors evaluated seventeen MMA athletes looking for intensity of neck pain, presence of muscle spasms and point tenderness, impaired cervical range of motion, and neurological findings following training and competition.  The authors found that 58% of the participants had sustained injuries consistent with whiplash associated disorder as classified using the Quebec Task Force Classification.

The findings were as follows

58.8% of athletes presented with neck pain mostly rated as mild. Muscle spasm and point tenderness was prevalent in the majority (n=16; 94.1%) of athletes. All of the participants (n=17; 100%) showed some decrease in their cervical range of motion, however, in most cases, cervical ROM was in the average to good range in all planes of movement. Decreased sensation in dermatomes was reported in three participants (n=3; 17.7%) and decreased muscle strength in myotomes was recorded in four participants (n=4; 23.4%). In accordance with the classification criteria of the QTFC, WAD was found to be present in ten participants (n=10; 58.8%). Four participants (n=4; 23.5%) presented with WAD II and six participants (n=6; 35.3%) with WAD III.

The authors note that “This study was limited by a small sample size and the findings can likely not be generalised to the MMA athletes in South Africa or the larger population of MMA athletes The findings of this study do support the need for further studies in larger populations of MMA athletes to explore the risk and consequences of the repetitive head trauma in MMA.

The full abstract can be found here.


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