So much attention on traumatic brain injury in sports and yet, surprisingly, we don’t often hear of it in connection with mixed martial arts.
MMA is a full contact combat sport. It involves violent strikes to the head, as well as aggressive wrestling maneuvers. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is said to be the fastest growing sport organization in the world.
Last week MMA fighter Brian Stann announced his retirement from the UFC.
Before his eight years as a UFC fighter, Stann played football for the US Naval Academy, later going on to fight for the Marine Corps in Iraq.
Stann admits he has put his health at stake after a competitive football career, exposure to several explosions in Iraq, and eight years of professional fighting. “I definitely am rolling the dice with my long-term health,” said Stann in a recent interview. “Bringing my third child into the world this fall, my third daughter, it is not a good idea for me to roll those dice.”
The media is praising Stann for his decision. One headline is calling Stann’s retirement a “heroic act.” Another says he is living a “life of integrity by walking away from MMA intact.”
“The UFC is full of young fighters willing to risk their health for a chance at fame and fortune. Stann’s retirement sets a positive example to young fighters…By walking away with his health and his brain intact, Stann showed us that there are still smart people out there who aren’t addicted to the fame and the bright lights and the thrill of competition and the money,” writes one reporter. “You don’t have to hold a belt to be a champion.”
Finally, brain injury in sport is being treated with the respect it deserves.