Study – Chokes in Combat Sports “Appear to be Safe”

In the latest addition to this site’s archived posts documenting safety issues in combative sports, a study was published today in the journal of The Physician and Sports Medicine analyzing the safety of chokeholds.

In the recent article, titled The Safety of Sportive Chokes: A Cross Sectional Survey Base Study, the authors analyzed surveys from 4,307 participants with experience in grappling arts.  Most participants were had experience being choked to near-syncome.  Over 27% had been choked unconscious.  Only 0.05% of the participants (2 out of 4,307) reported ongoing symptoms they attributed to being choked.

Based on the data collected the authors concluded that “sportive choking appears to be safe“.

The full abstract reads as follows:

Objectives: Sportive choking or strangling, known as a “choke” in the combat sports community, is the practice of compressing the jugular veins and carotid arteries to threaten unconsciousness by lowering cerebral perfusion pressure. This is commonly practiced within combat sports and police/military combatives. The safety profile of sportive choking is underrepresented in the literature. The authors sought to explore the safety of sportive chokes.

Methods: A convenience sample of visitors to two combat sports internet forums completed an anonymous web-based survey on choking experience and related symptoms. Descriptive statistics were used to describe the obtained data. Bivariate analysis were perfomed to elaborate on relationships between grappling experience and the number of times choked, between the number of times choked with pre-syncope/syncope, and between the duration of symptoms and the number of times choked with pre-syncope/syncope.

Results: Overall, 4421 individuals completed the survey. 114 were excluded,leaving 4307 analyzed respondents. 94% were male, 89.2% were ages 18-44 years. 78.7% had > 1 year of grappling experience and 30% had > 5 years. Of the 4307, 1443 (33.5%) reported being choked > 500 times, 3257 (75.7%) have been choked to near-syncope, and 1198 (27.8%) have been choked unconscious. 2 of the 4307 (0.05%) reported ongoing symptoms from chokes. Of the respondents, 94.3% felt applying a choke would be a safe and effective way to control a street fight; 83.6% felt that vascular neck restraint, the police combatives equivalent of sportive choking, would be appropriate as an alternative escalation of force option.Conclusion: Based on a convenience sample of 4307 respondents’ self-reported data, sportive choking appears to be safe. Only 0.05% experienced ongoing symptoms, which were likely not related to brain ischemia.

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