How Old Should Kids Be To Consent To Brain Trauma?

Two questions.

  1. How old should kids be before being allowed to participate in full contact martial arts (be it boxing, MMA, kickboxing etc)?
  2. How much should kids (or their parents) know about brain trauma within these sports before they are truly making an informed decision to participate?

Society regulates the ability of kids to consent to a host of dangerous or consequential activities. Smoking, drinking, consuming cannabis and even signing binding contracts to name a few. But when you shift to intentional brain trauma there is no consensus age within combat sports about when kids can be exposed to full contact.

What age should kids be to be able to consent to brain trauma? And let’s not kid ourselves with soft language. Full contact sports are married to brain trauma. We are talking about sports with brain trauma as feature, not a bug. Sports where brain injuring your opponent is the most definitive way of winning. A celebrated highlight.

This week the Washington Post did a deep dive into kids MMA. Its a worthwhile read. No conclusions reached. Just unvarnished observations. Readers can reach their own opinion.

One thing that is clear from reading the article is some kids and their parents participating do not understand brain trauma. Being talented does not make you immune. Headgear does nothing to protect the brain. CTE is linked to the number of hits to the head and the number of years of exposure. Its a disease of mileage. Putting on miles in adolescence is a dangerous recipe. Brain injury ignorance is rampant in the combat sports community.

The brain does not finish developing and maturing until the mid to late 20’s. Food for thought. Right now kids don’t need to know anything about brain trauma before ‘consenting’ to participate in brain injuring sports. We can do better than this.

What’s the basement? What bare minimum facts should be known? Critical discussion welcome.


Update June 10 – For what its worth here are the views from folks on social media who responded to these two questions. The fundamental takeaway is few question the value of informed consent in participation in sport.

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