Adding to this site’s data base of combat sports safety studies, a recent study was published in the Journal of Facial Plastic Surgery and Aesthetic Medicine documenting the facial injury rate in a decade of UFC bouts.
The study, titled Characteristics of Facial Trauma in Professional Mixed Martial Arts, reviewed 10 years worth of medical records from UFC bouts in Nevada. Unsurprisingly the study found these to be common injuries with lacerations leading the way with facial fractures occurring in 3.6% of the bouts.
The full abstract is set out below. These findings can be contrasted with bare knuckle boxing facial injury rates which were recently discussed here.
Background: Injuries are common in mixed martial arts (MMA) competitions. However, the risk factors for facial injury have not been delineated.
Objective: Identify the facial injuries and associated risk factors of professional MMA fights.
Methods: The Nevada State Athletic Commission medical injury reports from all professional Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts from 2010 to 2020 was reviewed. Fighter characteristics, details of the competition, and injuries sustained were collected. Binary logistic regressions determined significant predictors of facial injury.
Results: A total of 1462 fighters were included. Most participants were male (91.0%) with mean age of 29.5 ± 4.1 years. Most fights took place between 135 and 185 lbs., lasted ≥3 rounds (59.4%), and resulted in judges’ decision (50.5%) or knockout (31.2%). The facial injury rate was 15.8%, which were predominantly lacerations (12.0%) and fractures (3.6%). Multivariate regression revealed being male (p = 0.026), heavier weight (p = 0.028), more rounds fought (p = 0.019), losing (p < 0.001), and nonsubmission outcome (p = 0.017) predicted facial injury.
Conclusion: Facial injuries are common in MMA fighting. The risks should be iterated to participants in this sport.