Concussion & Head Injuries in MMA

Concussion in MMA

I’ve managed to have concussion 5 times, twice from footy/soccer and 3 times from MMA.
Now, this isn’t particularly bad, and was never a concern until I read a few articles and studies.

Concussion is a big deal in America at the moment, with several ex NFL players suffering mental illness due to long term effects of multiple concussions. A handful have even killed themselves.

It can take up to 6 months to recover, sometimes longer
When most spectators see a fighter get KO’d; they assume that the fella/women who’s just been beaten, will be fine in an hour or so, maybe a day or two tops. They don’t think that guys like Colin McCarthy will be out of NFL action for 6 months after a concussion; but this is how long symptoms can last. This is one reason why NFL players may soon have to wear knee pads (to stop knee-to-head collisions causing concussions) and there will be neurologists on the sidelines of games.

Concussion is a big deal in America right now
Just to emphasise how dangerous multiple concussions can be – NFL players are suing the league over their handling of concussions during games and careers:
In April 2011, Ray Easterling, Jim McMahon and 5 other players filed a lawsuit against the league over its handling of concussions, and one year later, Easterling was found dead in his home by a gunshot wound. Two months prior, Bears safety Dave Duerson committed suicide, and his autopsy reviewed that he had suffered from brain damage. Ref

Following an autopsy – on Chris Benoit, the wrestler that killed his family and then himself, it was also found that he was suffering from brain damage, almost certainly caused by repeated concussions. It would have been easy to dismiss his terrible actions as ‘roid rage’ but, following his father’s approval of an autopsy, it was discovered that his brain was severely damaged. You can read more here.

Chris Benoit concussions
Chris Benoit suffered from brain damage due to multiple concussions

In addition old school MMA fighter Gary Goodridge is also suffering from dementia. It will be interesting to see if more MMA and k-1 fighters eventually suffer the same condition, come the end of her career.

The effects of concussion appear to be cumulative
i.e. symptoms get worse, and worse; each time an individual suffers a concussive injury.
This study suggests that 2 or more concussions cause long term damage to particular neural pathways. People who suffer multiple concussions are more likely to suffer from conditions/diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Once you suffered one, you’re more susceptible to another concussion
Research also suggests that once someone has suffered one concussions, that same individual is much more likely to become/suffer a concussive state again. This may explain why some MMA fighters appear to ‘lose their chin’ later in their careers, and get KO’d more easily.

Like Baseball – 3 and you’re out
It would appear that after you have had 3 concussions, ideally you should quit all together. That’s me out then. This is a very vague guideline however, since some concussions are far worse than others. Also, keep in mind that in a fight, someone can suffer the equivalent of several concussions; whether that person wins or loses. For example, when someone is ‘dazed’; it’s pretty certain they’ve suffered some level of concussion/brain trauma; they’re brain is in a massively vulnerable state; so those follow up blows that often occur when a ref is trying to establish if a fighter is trying to ‘intelligently defend himself’ are massively damaging. In teenagers and young adults, a follow up blow can lead to something called secondary impact syndrome, which can cause the brain to swell and can result in the death of the athlete.

Many people don’t realise they’ve suffered a concussion. My suggestion for MMA fighters and enthusiasts, is to just be sensible. Have at least 3 months off from hard sparring (ideally) if you suffer even a minor concussion. This may not be realistic for a pro, but for us amateur enthusiasts it may give a chance to improve our BJJ and technique.

Symptoms include:
Sensitivity to noise
Confusion &Amnesia/difficulty
Sensitivity to light
Double/fuzzy vision
Sleep disturbances

Symptoms can worsen if you do too much/any physical or mental work whilst still symptomatic.

Recovering from Concussion in MMA

I’ve recently started using ginkgo biloba and acetyl-l-carnitine.  They act as nootropics, but are also helps in terms of recovery and preventing inflammation. Again, do your research before using. Not sure if this is safe to use long term for everyone (especially L-carnitine).

There is mounting research the ketogenic diets may be beneficial to those suffering form a range of neurological problems/illnesses:

Nutrition and Traumatic Brain Injury: Improving Acute and Subacute Health Outcomes in Military Personnel.

Based on the evidence presented, the ketogenic diet does hold some promise of effectiveness in improving the outcomes of TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). There are indications that ketones may provide an alternative and readily usable energy source for the brain that might reduce its dependence on glucose metabolism, which may be impaired immediately following TBI. However, important knowledge gaps must be addressed before either the classic or modified ketogenic diet can be recommended as a treatment for TBI. Although it would not be feasible to prescribe ketogenic diets to improve resilience against TBI, identifying dietary compounds that are precursors of ketones, such as medium-chain triglycerides, and evaluating whether they have positive effects when administered after the injury is warranted.”

Exogenous Ketones & Concussion

“There is both theoretical and clinical evidence that administering ketones to patients with cerebral injury may provide significant benefit. Furthermore, combining ketones with HTS may provide the added advantage of ICP control with improved cerebral metabolism. There are, however, a number of outstanding questions requiring further consideration. These questions include dosing, timing, and the route and duration of administration. Further research is necessary to clarify these issues and to determine whether an HTS ketone solution could be employed in the management of acute brain injury.”

Study –

In addition, lions mane mushroom, also holds some promise, as does the super-spice turmeric and pro & pre biotics.

I’ve recently tried NSI 189 which has been shown to grow/regrow brain cells in a specific part of the brain. This seems to have helped quite a bit.

I also meditate everyday whilst doing the Wim Hof method and staring at a SAD lamp. If you were in my house at 6am, this is what I’d be doing!

My Unofficial Supplements for MMA & Concussion Recovery

(Consult your doctor before taking any of these)

  • Organic Blueberry Powder – Take Daily
  • Salmon roe/eggs – Take Daily
  • Lion’s Mane Mushroom – Take Daily, 2 months on, 1 off
  • Turmeric – Take Daily & After training
  • NSI 189 – I’ve taken this once & it seemed to help a lot
  • Microdose psilocybin (I would if I had access!)

See my NSI-189 Review by clicking here!

2 Responses to Concussion & Head Injuries in MMA

  1. Carlos says:

    Three concussions in Two years. I’m so depressed to have to choose between my live of martial arts and a fruitful healthy life. Emotionally and philosophically it’s a hard choice. Thanks for the article, at least I’m not alone.

    • seoandmma says:

      Sucks doesn’t it! I have listened to the latest Joe Rogan Podcast with Dr Rhonda. There’s a gene called “epo E4” (not sure how you spell it) that determines how susceptible you are to brain ‘problems’ in later live. I think you can get tested for it

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