Boxers, MMA, and martial arts fighters can sustain many injuries over their careers.
Types of Boxing, MMA, and Martial Arts Injuries
One alarming statistic is that “90% of boxes will have…a brain injury”, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Dementia and eye injuries are other possible issues. In addition, the more padding boxing gloves have, the more injuries that are possible because fighters can be hit more often since punches are “easier to absorb”. In boxing, most blows are to the head because they lead to more knockouts. MMA (mixed martial arts) fighters use “punching, kicking, and grappling holds”. MMA fighters utilize boxing, judo, karate, kickboxing, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in their matches. The types of injuries sustained include “musculoskeletal stress, joint dislocation, and soft tissue trauma”. The most common injuries are broken bones, lacerations, and injuries to the upper extremities, as well as damage to the face and eyes. A Johns Hopkins study suggested that boxing may be more dangerous, however, due to “head trauma and cerebral hemorrhages (as) the (number one) cause of death in combat sports”.1 Fighters can also experience vertigo from head trauma and ear injuries.2 Chiropractors can treat vertigo.
There are additional kinds of trauma that fighters may endure, such as hip pain, knee pain, rib pain, sacroiliac strain (or SI sprain) as well as upper cross syndrome. One type of rib cage pain is called a floating rib injury. These ribs are attached to vertebrae and not the sternum. Boxing jabs could leave these “floating ribs” at the bottom of the ribcage more vulnerable. Bruising can lead to sore ribs, and fractures also lead to pain in ribs. Flail chest is very serious and involves “three or more broken ribs being fractured in multiple places”. Although rib protectors are not allowed in sanctioned bouts, they should be used during training and sparring.3 One of the biggest risks of rib injuries from boxing or MMA fighting is pneumonia, since breathing becomes more painful, and it is important to breathe deeply to prevent respiratory infections. Typical rib pain treatment may include cold packs or pain medications.4 Chiropractors can also treat many rib injuries. Therapy might begin with massage or stretching, prior to manipulation.5 Upper cross syndrome (UCS) presents as the head shifting forward, with the shoulders rounded. This is caused by overuse and “muscular imbalances between the flexors and extensors of the upper torso”. This can lead to injuries unless what is tight is stretched and what is weak is strengthened. It is important to exercise the full range of motion and all of the muscles of the shoulder.6 Chiropractors can help patients who have UCS, including athletes, in learning the correct posture and exercises to prevent injuries. Fighters may also have injuries related to the sacroiliac joint. The SI joint could become strained or sprained. Pain in this region can be felt in the lower abdomen, groin, and back thigh, and pain may radiate down the leg. Aside from NSAID medications to reduce inflammation, exercises and manipulation can be performed to rehabilitate the joint. This can be done with a physical therapist or chiropractor.7
Find out more about chiropractic treatment for ribs.