Study Finds High Hand Fracture Rate in MMA, Suggests Glove Redesign

Adding to this site’s data base of combat sports safety studies, a recent study was published in the journal The Physician and Sports Medicine reviewing upper limb injury rates in MMA.

In the study, titled Upper Limb Injuries in Mixed Martial Arts, the authors reviewed ringside physician reports in Nevada for UFC cards. Data from 408 bouts was reviewed. It revealed that hand injuries were the most frequent upper limb injury and that punching opponents was the main mechanism for this injury (ie fighters injuring their own hands).

Women injured their hands at a higher rate than men but not to a substantial degree.

The authors call for redesign of MMA gloves as a potential solution.

Objective

Mixed-Martial-Arts(MMA) is a worldwide growing sport that incorporates different fighting styles and disciplines and is often associated with the Ultimate Fighting Championship(UFC) . The aim of this study is to explore the patterns and trends of upper limb injuries in MMA.

Methods

Ringside physician reports of the UFC fights between 2016 and 2019(inclusive) were extracted and screened from the Nevada State Athletic Commission(NSAC). The following variables were included: sex, weight division, injury mechanism, injury type, injury location, and type of finish. Injury rates were calculated and expressed per 100 athletic exposures (AE). An independent t-test, a one way analysis of variance(ANOVA), and a Joinpoint regression analysis were conducted to explore any significant differences or trends among variables. P-values<0.05 were considered significant(95% CI).

Results

A total of 81 upper limb injuries in 408 fights were recorded between 2016 and 2019. The injury rate was 9.9 injuries per 100 athletic-exposures(AE). Striking opponents was the most common mechanism of injury(p<0.001). The hand was the most commonly injured location with an injury rate of 6.61 per 100AE(p<0.001). Females had a higher upper limb injury rate than their male counterparts, but the difference failed to reach significance(p=0.454). Similarly, no significant differences existed between rates of different types of injures. Matches ending with decision had the highest number of upper limb injuries with a rate of 12.6 per 100AE; however, no significant difference was determined between the rates of different ways of finish(p=0.115). The strawweight(20.5 per 100AE), female flyweight(19.2 per 100AE), and male flyweight(13.8 per 100AE) divisions had the highest upper limb injury rates.

Conclusion

The hand was the most commonly injured upper limb location in MMA, and “striking opponent” was the most common injury mechanism. Increasing padding in gloves and implementing medical examinations during bouts can help reduce injury rates.


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