The prevalence of and risk factors associated with musculoskeletal injuries in mixed martial arts athletes in the greater Durban area
Jack, Duncan Alexander
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Background: Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a contact sport that has grown in popularity worldwide. MMA has been shown to be an activity that generates a high volume of injuries in its participants, especially when subjected to particular factors that are known to carry high risk in contact sports. Limited research has been conducted concerning the risk for injury development in MMA, with no South African statistics being produced to date. This study aims to bridge this gap. Aim: The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of and risk factors associated with musculoskeletal injuries in Mixed Martial Arts athletes in the greater Durban area of KwaZulu-Natal. Method: This study was a prospective, quantitative survey that sampled 105 MMA athletes from 16 accredited gyms in the greater Durban area. The information captured from the questionnaires enabled compilation of a fighter profile, training profile and injury profile assessing injuries present at the time of data collection and a history of injuries over a 12 month period. Data was analysed with SPSS version 23.0. Inferential techniques included the use of correlations and chi square test values, displayed as p-values and Eta scores. Relationships were considered significant with a p-value of <0.05 and an effect size of >0.23. Results: A 91% response rate was achieved with 83.3% male and 16.2% female participation. Overall, the most commonly injured areas were the upper extremity (36.5%), followed by the lower extremity (34.3%), spine (14.2%), head (8.6%) and trunk (6.5%) regions. In terms of single areas, the most common injuries were to the shoulder (30.9%), knee (29.2%) and elbow (14.4%). The most common injury types were joint sprains (31.1%), muscle strains (20.7%) and ligament tears (18.6%). The most common injury mechanisms were being struck (16.1%), falling (15.7%) and striking an opponent (13.6%). Participants were unsure of the mechanism of their injuries in 7.5% of the injury reports. The number of days missed from training due to injury ranged from zero to 270 days of incapacitation. Risk factors for injury were significant for favoring the dominant hand while fighting (p = 0.011), flexibility training/ stretching (p = 0.019), ground arm-bars (p = 0.014), ground strangles (p = 0.028), groundwork holds/pins (p = 0.028), falling (p = 0.006), increased age (η = 0,619) and increased body weight (η = 0.706). Participation in CrossFit as an additional sport/ conditioning program was a protective factor against injuries (p = 0.007). Conclusion and recommendations: Favouring one side, falling, stretching, arm-bars, strangles, pins and increasing weight are some of the largely modifiable risk factors that play an important role in the development of injuries in MMA athletes. Coaches and their athletes will benefit from adapting training strategies to reduce injury rates from over-exposure to activities that present a high risk of injury as well as by furthering the extent of exposure to conditioning.