Posts Tagged ‘Weight Cut Reform’

A useful powerpoint presentation created by Dr. Kien Trinh was recently published by Boxing Canada warning athletes about the perils of Rapid Extreme Weight Cut practices.

The presentation is user-friendly and worth reading in full.  Titled “Making Weight in Boxing – How to do it Better“, it can be found here.

In short the noted performance measures not to mention increased risks to safety are highlighted.  Dangerous weight cut practices are noted with tips being given for ideal weight cut practices backed with peer reviewed sources.  All combat sports athletes and trainers should invest a few minutes to review this presentation in full.

screenshot-boxing-canada-rewl-presentation

Adding to this site’s archived combat sports safety studies and weight cut reform articles, a study was recently published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism  finding all MMA athlete participants being dehydrated when weighing in for competition with the magnitude of rapid weight loss and strategies being “comparable to those which have previously resulted in fatalities“.

In the study, titled Extreme Rapid Weight Loss and Rapid Weight Gain Observed in UK Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Preparing for Competition, the authors measured dietary intake, urinary hydration status, and body mass of several MMA athletes in the week prior to competition.  Despite the small sample size the authors observed troubling findings that “”At the official weigh-in 57% of athletes were dehydrated… and the remaining 43% were severely dehydrated

The authors call for “Rule changes which make RWL impractical should be implemented with immediate effect to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of competitors.”  Given the ever growing Rapid Weight Loss Injury/Fatality List in MMA this is a sensible call to action.

Below is the study’s full abstract:

There is a lack of research documenting the weight-making practices of mixed-martial-arts (MMA) competitors. The purpose of the investigation was to quantify the magnitude and identify the methods of rapid weight loss (RWL) and rapid weight gain (RWG) in MMA athletes preparing for competition. Seven athletes (mean ± SD, age 24.6 ± 3.5 yrs, body mass 69.9 ± 5.7 kg, competitive experience 3.1 ± 2.2 yrs) participated in a repeated-measures design. Measures of dietary intake, urinary hydration status, and body mass were recorded in the week preceding competition. Body mass decreased significantly (p<0.0005) from baseline by 5.6 ± 1.4 kg (8 ± 1.8%). During the RWG period (32 ± 1 hours) body mass increased significantly (p<0.001) by 7.4 ± 2.8 kg (11.7 ± 4.7%), exceeding RWL. Mean energy and carbohydrate intake were 3176 ± 482 kcal·day−1and 471 ± 124 g·day−1, respectively. At the official weigh-in 57% of athletes were dehydrated (1033 ± 19 mOsmol·kg−1) and the remaining 43% were severely dehydrated (1267 ± 47 mOsmol·kg−1). Athletes reported using harmful dehydration-based RWL strategies, including sauna (43%) and training in plastic suits (43%). Results demonstrated RWG greater than RWL, this is a novel finding and may be attributable to the 32 hour duration from weigh-in till competition. The observed magnitude of RWL and strategies used are comparable to those which have previously resulted in fatalities. Rule changes which make RWL impractical should be implemented with immediate effect to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of competitors.

Ohio Athletic Commission Logo

Ohio has some unique rules on their books when it comes to weigh ins and all UFC 203 athletes setting foot into the Buckeye State for the first time ought to be aware of these.

Somewhat controversially, Ohio has gone against the grain in the recent trend of earlier weigh ins anchored in the belief that this encourages greater weight cuts.  Given this it is unclear if the Commission will allow early weigh ins for UFC 203.  In addition to this Ohio rules also

  • limit the weight discrepancy between opponents who tip the scales in different weight classes (perhaps most interestingly not allowing heavyweights, where one cuts down to 265, with a weight difference of more than 7 pounds from facing each other)
  • Second weigh ins on the day of the event are allowed with rules on how much weight an athlete can regain from their initial weigh in
  • Ohio gives athletes multiple chances to make weight with no restriction on how much weight can be shed overall but prohibits how much weight can be lost in an hour
  • A list of strict penalties for fighters who fail to make weight

Below are the Ohio Athletic Commissions full weigh in rules for MMA

Weigh in procedures.

(A) The weigh-ins must be conducted by an inspector or a representative of the Ohio athletic commission at a place and time designated by the promoter in accordance with the rules bearing agency 3773 of the Administrative Code.

(B) All contestants must weigh in. With the exception of super heavyweights contestants are limited to shorts, shirt and socks.

(C) The scale used for the official weigh-in shall be provided by the Ohio athletic commission. If authorized by the executive director or the commission the scale may be provided by the promoter. If more than one scale is used, each contestant shall weigh in on the same scale as their opponent

(D) Allowance in weight class is the weight difference permitted between contestants in two different weight classes.

(1) There may not be a difference of more than three pounds between weight classes from straw weight up to and including the bantamweight class.

(2) There may not be a difference of more than five pounds between weight classes from lightweight up to and including the welterweight class.

(3) There may not be a difference of more than seven pounds between weight classes from middleweight up to and including the heavyweight class. 

E) When a weigh-in is conducted the day prior to the event, with the exception of the heavyweight and super heavyweight class, all other contestants may be required to weigh-in at a second weigh-in the next day scheduled by the commission within eight hours of the starting time of the event. Contestants weighing one hundred fiftyfive pounds and lower will not be permitted to exceed the weight of the previous weigh-in by more than eight pounds. A contestant weighing more than one hundred fifty-five pounds will not be permitted to gain. more than thirteen pounds, from their recorded weight from the day prior. The random second day weigh-in will be at the discretion of the executive director.

(F) Amateur contestants may not weigh in earlier than ten a.m. the day of the event.

(G) A contestant one hundred fifty-five pounds and lower may not lose more than two pounds within one hour. A contestant above one hundred fifty-five pounds may not lose more than three pounds within one hour. There are no restrictions to the number of times a contestant may attempt to re-weigh within the prescribed time period. This rule applies to a second day weigh-in also..

(H) Penalties for a fighter being overweight:

(1) Up to a sixty day suspension and/or a fine .

(2) Overweight by one ounce to two pounds shall be fined by paying opponent one hundred dollars or ten per cent of purse whichever is higher.

(3) Overweight by more than two pounds but not over four pounds shall pay a fine and pay opponent two hundred dollars or twenty percent of purse whichever is higher.

(4) Overweight by greater than four pounds and if within the regulations for the bout to continue, shall be fined and pay opponent four hundred dollars or twenty five percent of purse whichever is higher.

(5) If purse exceeds ten thousand dollars the opponent will receive fifty percent and the state of Ohio will receive fifty percent.

(6) If the bout goes on no suspensions will be issued for not making weight.

(I) Weight allowances between weight classes do not apply to amateur contestants. They must compete within the weight class. 

 

Adding to this site’s archived articles addressing rapid extreme weight cut practices in combat sports, a recent study was published in the Journal of The Physician and Sports Medicine evaluating competition results in boxing with athletes who practiced Rapid Weight Gain after weigh ins.

In the study, titled Rapid Weight Gain in Professional Boxing and Correlation With Fight Decisions, the authors reviewed 71 bouts sanctioned by the International Boxing Federation and looked at how much weight athletes gained from weigh in to competition and further reviewed the weight discrepancy between opponents.

The data revealed that “correlations between weight gain and weight discrepancy were not found” although there were cases with “alarming” weight gain and weight discrepancy.

Below is the studies full abstract:

Abstract
Introduction: Boxing is a sport where athletes compete in several weight categories. Professional boxers typically dehydrate to cut their weight for the weigh-in (24h before the contest) and then rehydrate before the fight. The International Boxing Federation (IBF) mandates a second weigh-in 12h before the fight.

Objectives: 1) To quantify the weight gain (WG) from the 1st to the 2nd weigh-in; 2) to investigate whether rapid WG affects boxing performance (win/loss rate) and 3) whether weight discrepancy (WD) between boxers exposes them to increased health risks (rate of fights ended before time limit).

Methods: From official weigh-in reports of 71 IBF fights (142 fighters) the following data were gathered/calculated for each boxer: age, weight division, 1st weight, 2nd weight, WG between weigh-ins (kg and %), WD between opponents, and fight decision.

Results: Between the weigh-ins, the average WG was 2.52±1.37kg (range -0.3/6.4kg) and 3.8±2.2% of the initial body weight (range -0.4/9.3%) and the average WD 1.94±1.50kg (maximum 7.10kg). Both WG and WD did not affect match outcomes. We observed tendencies for higher loss rate among boxers gaining more weight, and for higher victory rate in boxers with larger WD, however without reaching significance. A significant negative correlation was found between the 1st weight and the WG, both in absolute (r=-0.278, p=0.001) and relative value (r=-0.497, p<0.0001).

Conclusions: Although correlations between WG, WD and boxing performance were not found, single cases with an alarming high WG and WD were noted.

The dangers of rapid extreme weight cuts played a central role at this year’s Association of Boxing Commissions annual meeting with both medical and legal risks associated with the practice being discussed.

Jeff Novitizky, the UFC’s Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance, noted the following weigh in data (expressed as the percentage of weight over the fighter’s weight class when they arrive at the location of their bout during fight week) showing fighters are losing, on average, 6.2% of their body weight through rapid extreme weight cut measures in the week preceding their bouts.

Medical evidence at the ABC Conference suggested rapid cuts beyond the 5-7% range remain medically dangerous so while there appears to be some improvement since the UFC implemented their weight cut reforms, there still remains work to be done.

Weight Cut Data2

Following California,  Ontario, KansasCABMMA and the Mohegan Department of Athletic Regulation, the Nevada State Athletic Commission, arguably the most influential combat sports regulator, is the latest to adopt early weigh ins.

Today’s NSAC agenda included the following item for possible action

10. Consideration of request by Zuffa, LLC to modify time of event weigh‐ins, for possible action.

MMAFighting.com’s Shaheen Al-Shatti reports that the commission has unanimously adopted the proposal.

Shaheen Al Shatti Tweet

Unlike some jurisdictions whose rules or regulations require weigh ins to be held 24 hours or less prior to a bout, Nevada’s Regulations regarding weigh ins are broad enough to give the NSAC the discretion for this move with NAC 467.496  reading as follows:

An unarmed combatant who has signed a bout agreement is subject to an order by the Commission to appear at any time to be:

     1.  Weighed; or

     2.  Examined by any physician whom the Commission may designate.

Not all jurisdictions have this flexibility and those that don’t should consider taking the steps needed to adopt this practice along with other weight cut reforms to ensure that MMA’s rapid extreme weight cut injury list stops its troubling growth.

Although Ohio has recently gone against the grain by adopting same day weigh ins for pro-am MMA events, the regulatory standard is quickly becoming moving weigh ins further back from events to allow athletes greater time to rehydrate with a view to reducing rates of injury and death.

Sherdog reports that Brazil’s Athletic Commission (CABMMA) is the latest to adopt the change of early weigh ins first spearheaded by California, and followed by Ontario, Kansas, and the Mohegan Department of Athletic Regulation.  Nevada is also considering adopting this reform. Marcelo Alonso reports as follows for Sherdog:

Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission Director Cristiano Sampaio indicated that future Ultimate Fighting Championship events in Brazil will follow the new weigh-in protocols — fighters will weigh in 30 hours before the event — that were adopted for UFC 199 in Los Angles and UFC Fight Night “MacDonald vs. Thompson” in Ottawa, Ontario.

“Actually we’ve been doing that in Brazilian promotions since 2015,” Sampaio told Sherdog.com. “We did it in Shooto, Max Fight and 1st Round Combat. The test runs were really positive. Now, we’re in the final stage of setting up protocols and doing the same for UFC events in Brazil. I talked with the UFC right after the Curitiba event [on May 14], and our plan is to start using the new guidelines for the upcoming UFC event in Brasilia.

“We were really impressed by the excellent results we got at the Brazilian events,” he added. “The athletes are not gaining more weight by having more time to rehydrate. They actually get rehydrated in a correct manner — slowly and homogenously — so the fighters are in much better condition to compete the day of the fight; they’ve had more time to rest and feed themselves better. That doesn’t even mention the visual side of it for the media and fans. It’s definitely a great step for the sport.”

According to a Combate.com report, the next UFC event in Brazil is slated for Sept. 24 in Brasilia. The UFC has not yet confirmed the date.

 

Update January 11, 2017 BlugrassMMA reports that this policy has now been repealed and pros competing on pro-am cards can weigh in day before with a second weigh in on the day of the fight with restrictions on how much weight can be regained.

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When combat sports regulators turn their mind to solutions for the dangers associated with Rapid Extreme Weight Cutting, a knee jerk reaction is to require same day weigh ins with fighters competing at their weigh-in weight.

As the conversation matures with physicians and other stakeholders being brought to the table this idea is stopped dead in its tracks.  The reason being that fighters sometimes need to be protected from themselves.  Many fighters will resort to rapid extreme weight cut practices to make weight instead of being penalized for missing weight or outright being stopped from competing.  In other words they will make weight by profoundly dehydrating themselves.  To the extent that commissions allows these practices athletes need substantial time to properly re-hydrate prior to competing, making same day weigh ins (without a hydration requirement) a non-starter.

The Ohio Athletic Commission, unfortunately, appears to have gone against the grain and instituted same day weigh-ins.

BlueGrassMMA.com reports as follows:

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The Ohio Athletic Commission has instituted a new weigh-in policy, and it is sure to raise some eyebrows among the MMA community.

The commission sent out an email earlier today stating that pro and amateur fighters will now have to weigh-in for bouts on the same day of their event. We obtained a copy of the email below:

A new policy will be put in place starting July 1, 2016. ALL Mixed Martial Arts weigh-ins will be conducted on day of event. This includes ALL PRO AM events. The weigh-in can start as early as 10:00 AM the day of the event. This DOES NOT apply to an ALL PROFESSIONAL CARD.

We reached out to OAC executive director Bernie Profato for a statement:

There is still plenty of time for a fighter to re-hydrate and on the Pro AM cards there are usually only 2 to 3 Pro fights which affects 4 to 6 fighters.

If a fighter has an issue with this policy then they may being losing to much weight and not fighting in the correct weight class.

If fighters chose not to fight because of this then they may in fact be placing themselves in danger by cutting too much weight. We are not concerned what California does. We feel the earlier someone is permitted to weigh-in the more weight that can add prior to their bout. There is a weight cutting problem and if it can be corrected early in a fighter’s career it may put that fighter in a safer environment for the future.

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This is a controversial approach to the rapid weight cutting issue.  The above statement suggests that the commission still anticipates fighters to be dehydrated while making weight and the statement that there is “plenty of time for a fighter to re-hydrate” with same day weigh ins is not medically correct.

Dr Benjamin Tweet Ohio

While earlier weigh ins may encourage more extreme cuts they also give fighters more time to rehydrate.  To the extent a commission requires same day weigh ins it is essential regulators are vigilant to ensure all athletes are also hydrated while making weight as there is insufficient time for a body, and more importantly, a brain to rehydrate in one day.  Fighters competing dehydrated have an increased chance of musculo-skeletal injury, brain injury and death.

Commissions cannot turn a blind eye to the dangers of both extreme cuts but also athletes competing dehydrated.  Ohio’s solution seems to miss the second part of the equation.

After the largely popular early weigh ins conducted in California at UFC  199 MMAFighting.com’s Marc Raimondi, who has been perhaps the most consistent reporter addressing rapid extreme weight cut issues in the sport, advises that the same protocols will be used for UFC Fight Night 89 this week in Ottawa, Canada.

Raimondi reports as follows:

Fighters will be able to weigh-in at the fighter hotel Friday morning between 9 a.m. and noon, rather than the typical 4 p.m. weigh-in time, Sholler said. There will still be a “weigh-in” show at 5 p.m. where the official weights gathered earlier in the day will be announced.

The new policy was first attempted by the UFC at UFC 199 in Los Angeles two weeks ago. Fighters were able to weigh-in between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the fighter hotel. The idea, developed by doctors, is to give the athletes more time to rehydrate after their weight cut. A byproduct is now fighters will be dehydrated for a shorter amount of time — and going without food and water for a shorter amount of time — rather than waiting hours to be transported to the venue and for the weigh-in show to begin.

Whenever regulators change practices I like to look behind to the legislative landscape permitting this to take place.  Fortunately for Ontario, no legal changes were needed for this concession to the UFC as the rules grant some leeway and discretion to the Commissioner for conducting weigh ins.

All that is required under Ontario’s Athletics Control Act Regulation 52, Sectio 16 is that weigh ins for professional MMA bouts take place “on the day before the day of the contest or exhibition” with the Commissioner having the power to “designate the time and place of the weighing in“.

Not all jurisdictions have this flexibility and those that don’t should consider taking the steps needed to adopt this practice along with other weight cut reforms to ensure that MMA’s rapid extreme weight cut injury list stops its troubling growth.

After fighter Yang Jian Bing died from complications secondary to a rapid extreme weight cut for a bout scheduled in the Phillipines ONE Championship was quick to implement reforms.

There have been numerous well documented injuries due to rapid extreme weight cut practices in MMA and regulators have slowly taken action (click here to read about California reforms,  Kansas reforms, and Arkansas reforms) and now the UFC has become the latest entity to address the issue.

As first reported by the Las Vegas Review Journal, the UFC has announced that beginning at UFC 200 their roster will be subject to new promotion based regulations when it comes to cutting weight.  Adam Hill reported the following –

Along with increased education for athletes on proper weight-cutting techniques and rehydration methods during fight weeks and at athlete summits, the UFC has introduced a system of data collection and athlete monitoring of weight and vital signs that will enable the organization to create a database to track and analyze information on each fighter.

There is also a stipulation that all fighters, beginning the week of UFC 200, must be within 8 percent of their target weight when they check in for fight week, which generally occurs on a Tuesday before a Saturday fight.

A fighter who doesn’t fall within that range is subject to daily monitoring of weight and vitals throughout the week and will be required to attend weight management counseling before his or her next fight.

“The only hard and fast rule in there, and I think it’s probably the most important thing in terms of the guidelines, is that 8 percent number,” said Jeff Novitzky, the UFC vice president of athlete health and performance. “If they’re not, it’s not in the rules the fight won’t happen, but we sure are going to pay very close attention to them, including taking daily weight, daily vitals, and as it progresses, if they show signs of being dehydrated, they will be pulled from the fight.”

Novitzky said fighters are generally coming in under that number already, especially since an IV ban went into effect in October. In the past, fighters knew they could rehydrate with the use of an IV immediately after weigh-ins. That practice was banned as part of the UFC’s anti-doping policy, but Novitzky said it also has impacted weight cutting.

“It had a very surprising side effect in that it helped curtail extreme weight cuts,” he said. “You also see a whole bunch of fighters employing the services of nutritionists, so they are being smart about managing their weight. And the UFC is trying to provide as much as we can for the fighters that can’t afford a nutritionist. We’ve consulted with experts who have told us, ‘Hey, here’s the optimal things you want to be eating or drinking 24 hours before your fight, after the weigh in.’ So we provide that for the fighters.”

That’s in the form of a selection of drinks and food available to fighters after weigh-ins that were selected in consultation with the United States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine.

There is also now a fight-night room where athletes can pick up approved snacks and beverages. It was approved by the Nevada Athletic Commission for UFC 196 in March, and each of the jurisdictions that has hosted events since then have followed suit.

“That’s a brand new thing the fighters are just loving,” Novitzky said. “To my understanding, that had never been done. The only thing previously that was allowed in the locker room was sealed bottled water. Again, talking with experts and people in other sports, there was no other sport where an athlete wouldn’t be allowed to consume beverages and eat things leading right up to the competition.”

Novitzky knows no matter how much education and scientific data is provided, athletes aren’t likely to change their ways unless they see a competitive benefit.

“Most of these athletes believe they’re bulletproof,” he said. “But when eyes open and ears really perk up is when you start talking about performance. You can say, ‘Hey, look, not only is it not good for you, but if you do it this way with these extreme, rapid weight cuts, your performance is going to suffer.’

“The anecdotes that I get after fight nights are all based on that where you hear, ‘Wow, you’re right. I really did feel better, had more energy, felt like I had more legs.’ It’s very encouraging to hear that.”

Dr. Robert Kenefick, a research physiologist for USARIEM, has worked with the UFC on the policy. He said there is reason to believe fighters’ performances have been impacted by dehydration and poor weight cutting.

“When you start to lose greater than 4 percent mass, it definitely impacts aerobic activity, and there’s some evidence out there to suggest also anaerobic activity like power and strength can be impacted,” he said. “Their sport really takes a lot of different energy systems into account, so they’re doing very short-term one- to three-second burst-type movements, but at the same time, they’re doing round after round that are minutes long, so there is an endurance or aerobic capacity.

“There’s strong evidence to suggest their performance is going to be impacted.