Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Doctors Protest Against Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in Ontario

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a sport with about a 100-year-long modern tradition. The rules of the fight allow a selection of techniques to take place in every match. Thus, martial artists with various skillsets are able to compete in the ring. MMA is a full-contact sport with roots with roots as far as the ancient Rome.

Lately, medical professionals had something to say about this on the Canadian Medical Association’s general annual meeting in Niagara Falls. The majority of the doctors voiced their belief that the sport should not be legal. They simply argue that MMA is a dangerous sport with a large probability of injuries – a lot more significant than in boxing for instance.

Another parallel institution which lately voiced worries regarding MMA was the British Medical Association . Since early 2009, they are actively campaigning against this sport in Britain (for more info read BMA’s entire statement here). They, too, argue that the sport often gets excessively brutal.

As explained by Dr. Ian Gillespie, the president of BCMA, “MMA fighting, like boxing, is distinct from many other sports in that the basic intent of the fighter is to cause harm in order to incapacitate his or her opponent.” He adds that the “various techniques […] aren’t limited to punching, and there may be the presence of fewer safety rules.” is a portal reporting on MMA events and news. In an article on this topic, it expresses their own opinions on the arguments of the British Medical Association. They mention that any available data is extremely limited and link to an American study finding that injury and knock-out rates in Mixed Martial Arts are comparable to those of other such activities.

The Hamilton Spectator interviewed two experts from the field – a fighter and a coach – idea about the issue. Less efficient protective equipment which makes fighting more dangerous is a large concern. Also, the referees are less specific plus any regulations are looser overall. Unlike in box, the strikes are not aimed solely at the opponent’s head and the body in MMA, which will easily cause more kinds of injuries. To be fair, it may still make head injuries much less probable. Both experts are calling for a unification of procedures across Canada instead of keeping different regulations for each province.

Why do the Canadian doctors step up now? It is because only now (in August), Ontario province government finally agreed to legalize MMA in the province. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Warrior One (W1) are the two largest organizations. They already have business strategies aiming to develop activities in lucrative locations in the province. Ontario Premier Mr. Dalton McGuinty finally stepped out of his comfort zone to sign the law, but wants close scrutiny of all events and all the rules, according to Toronto Sun.

Doctors are unhappy that there are seldom trained professionals at the matches. They say that even if there were, it would be against their essential principles for them to passively watch the ongoing injuries and just let them pass. Traditional martial artists are displeased that the sport is in its essence countering the original values of martial arts which are most importantly respect, discipline, self-control and courtesy.

As reported by CTV, Dr. Shelby Karpman warns that since MMA is already very popular, outlawing it would cause that the fights take place illegally. Also, health supervision would not be enforceable and thus the artists could count on substandard care, which translates into even more danger.

That said, it seems reasonable to conclude that if the sport cannot be banned, it should definitely be officially regulated and any rules should be obeyed without exceptions. This means that there should be reasonable medical authority present with appropriate competencies; licensing, insurance and preventive measures should be in place during every match.

As I am sure you are wondering: Extreme sports such as MMA are treated as a special case for life insurance. Not every company will want to sell you coverage if you perform this or a similar extreme sport, and those who will are going to ask a much higher price. The final price is going to depend on the nature of the sport you do. A fighter should pay utmost attention to any exclusions and caveats in the policy and should not sign up for any but licensed events. Illegal fighting may mar your chances of ever successfully making a claim on your policy.

However, life insurance is not going to suffice to cover all expenses associated with extreme sports. A fighter will most probably cause harm to his or her counterpart and that will make him or her responsible for the reimbursements. In addition to the host of the match, each fighter should have liability insurance of his or her own. As with life insurance, with liability insurance it holds true that the fight must be part of a licensed and supervised venue and is limited by any exclusions in the plan.

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