by Dr. Johnny Benjamin on May 09, 2012 at 10:00 am ET
[IMG]http://mmajunkie.com/dyn/images/executives/dr-johnny-benjamin-3.jpg[/IMG]As doctors learn more and more about the devastating effects of brain injuries, MMA fighters have more and more to consider about their chosen profession.
In fact, MMAjunkie.com medical columnist and consultant Dr. Johnny Benjamin has some advice for fighters who have experienced two knockout losses in a fairly short amount of time. That includes UFC heavyweight Pat Barry.
In our latest installment of "Ask the Fight Doc," Dr. Benjamin explains why a little time off could help not only the fighters' health, but also their winning percentage.
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Doc: Why, during UFC on FOX 3, did you say on Twitter that you'd like to see Pat Barry take a year off?
I think about player/fighter safety in many ways other than merely the cost of the activity to the player/fighter's personal well-being.
I've often stated I think particular fighters need to take a year off from contact due to the amount of head trauma they've recently received. A perfect example is UFC heavyweight Pat Barry, who has experienced two spectacular KO losses since June 2011. (This is not intended to be disrespectful toward him in any way.)
The year off would provide an opportunity for his brain to heal without the continued insult of smaller (sub-concussive) blows that are a routine part of MMA training. Highlight-reel KTFOs and "Knock Out of the Night" performances get most of the attention for obvious reasons, but if you only focus on these events, you're missing the real story.
One of the things that we are learning in concussion management is that all of those routine head knocks that no one ever thinks about actually accumulate over time and are very, very important. The brain has an "injury meter," and every time it takes a significant jolt, the needle rises. Current thinking is that there is a continuum based on accumulated force directed at the brain. At some point (currently poorly defined) symptoms occur (concussion), and as the accumulation of force grows, temporary (MTBI-minimally traumatic brain injury) then permanent damage (CTE-chronic traumatic encephalopathy) occurs.
If we give the brain rest, the injury meter will slowly drift back down to a more normal level. A year is roughly the average amount of time nervous tissue needs to heal; after 12 months – for better or worse – it is what it is.
I'm no statistician, but I'm fairly proficient with basic math. So I approached the issue from a different perspective.
What does suffering a KO or TKO do to a fighter's performance in the near future?
I looked at the experience of the UFC in 2011.
During this past year, there were roughly 260 fights and 76 KO/TKOs sustained. I know that all knockouts are not created equally, but both TKOs and KOs usually include a significant amount of pummeling to the head. So for sake of simplicity, I will lump them together.
The average win percentage of UFC fighters prior to them experiencing a KO/TKO was roughly 63 percent. The (very likely post-concussion) fighters who have gone on to fight again within one year have seen their win rate plummet to approximately 44 percent.
Simply put: Returning to fight within the first several months after a KO/TKO costs the fighter approximately 20 percent to their win percentage. Granted, it's a small sample size, but it's telling.
I have a question for fighters who have recently experienced a KO/TKO: Why hurry back?
The down-and-dirty stats reveal that you are much more likely to lose than win. Furthermore, training and fighting only delay your recovery – or worse, hasten you along the path to permanent brain injury, CTE.
I understand you want to get back in there as quickly as possible, but if you're not likely to perform well, then what's the point? Who needs another L?