Written evidence submitted by Safe MMA
Safe MMA - Submission to the DCMS Concussion in Sport Inquiry
We are entering this submission to the DCMS Concussion in Sport Inquiry:
Who We Are and What We Do
Safe MMA is a globally renowned medical charity based in the UK and dedicated to the safety of athletes competing at MMA (mixed martial arts) events. In the absence of sport regulation, it was founded in 2012 by medical experts together with representatives from the MMA community, establishing the first minimum, medical safety standard for the sport in the UK and Ireland.
Safe MMA provides independent medical screening, public record- keeping services and the provision of advice and information on medical conditions to athletes, who are its members. Safe MMA’s medical board and panel consist of volunteer doctors and medical professionals with no commercial connection to promoters and includes world-class expertise from international sport. The athletes pay a small membership fee to Safe MMA and there is no commercial arrangement between the charity and the promoter, but in absence of external regulation, the promoter acts as the enforcer of the protocol. By mutual agreement, promoters adhering to the Safe MMA standard commit to not engaging competitors during their medical suspension periods (prescribed by a ringside doctor) which are made publicly available.
Safe MMA is partnered with mixed martial arts governing bodies that include the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF), the Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAA) and EMMAA (English Mixed Martial Arts Association). The charity also partners with a host of commercial British and Irish promoters, and international promoters when they bring events to the UK, such as Bellator (USA) and KSW (Poland).
Preclearance Medical Requirements of MMA Competitors
MMA promoters, governing bodies and event organisers partnering with Safe MMA demand the submission of the following medical examination documentation (at minimum) from their athletes, for independent auditing and record-keeping by Safe MMA:
Larger event organisers and all MMA promoters in Ireland, additionally require:
Safe MMA manages the medical suspension records post-event on advice from the ringside doctor, with automatic, mandatory, tiered suspension periods applied for first and second incidences of concussion of head trauma. On the third incidence the competitor will be indefinitely suspended until they are neurologically cleared.
Our core, volunteer medical team includes:
The core team invariably enlists expert advice from a wide range of GPs, medical specialists (on more complex cases), ringside doctors and medical service providers in the U.K. and abroad, for a 360-degree view of a competitor’s specific health needs.
Lack of regulation of the sport of MMA means that compliance is voluntary and only a minority of MMA promoters in the United Kingdom work with Safe MMA. There remains no legal requirement for a minimum level of medical safety either for athlete preclearance or at events in combat sports.
Meanwhile, the Safe MMA standard has become the de facto standard in the Republic of Ireland (with some variations to that in the UK), where it has become required of MMA promoters by arenas and licensing authorities and enforced by the MMA community itself through the Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association, despite the sport not being formally recognised by the Ministry of Sport.
Here, lack of sport recognition by Sport England creates further risk: Many medical professionals and medical service providers will not engage with MMA competitors or participants, making the sport less safe and in some instances, causing distress. Indeed, it has taken years to build up a network of doctors and scanning clinics that are willing to see our athletes, and many still have to travel great distances for their medical examinations at some expense.
If you would like any further information, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
On behalf of Safe MMA’s Trustees