Martial Arts Head Injuries On The Rise

By on 01/20/2016
head injury report

Martial Arts Head Injuries


There are many different styles of martial arts and like tai chi for health, not all are combative.  However, accidents do happen in all walks of life and even unintentional sparring accidents occur occasionally.  Most martial arts head injuries occur as a result of falls, blunt contact, and over-straining.  One of the key components of practicing martial arts is muscle control and flexibility.  When any of these physical attributes is deficient, it can result in a martial art injury.  The various types of injuries can affect any of the numerous body parts involved in the practice.  When they do, the most common types of injuries during martial arts training are head injuries, scrapes and bruises, sprains and strains, toe and finger injuries, back muscle pain, dislocated shoulder, facet joint pain, neck and arm pain, among others.



At the top of the list is head injuries leading to concussions.  Concussions can be misleading because the symptoms are not always apparent or immediate.  Head injuries are the most common type of injuries among professional martial artists.  Concussions are injuries to the brain that may lead to disruption of the brain function, either temporarily or permanently.  With a wide range of mild to severe head injuries, most of the signs and symptoms of a concussion are difficult to identify especially in the initial stage.  Some concussions may occur even when the player is not unconscious or not knocked out.  According to martial arts experts, it is important for players to take time off after a concussion before resuming their training.  This will prevent occurrence of another concussion and even death.  Players with a concussion history are more likely to experience other injuries than those without a history of concussion.  NOTE:  TO ACCESS A FULL COLOR 18pg REPORT ON HEAD INJURIES, CLICK HERE.

From Japan where judo is mandatory in the school system, a reporter tells us: “In the last 30 years at least 114 students have been killed while practicing judo. Another 261 have been severely injured for life. The rate of injury according to experts is at least five times that of any other major sport.  As of 2015, students may be put into the hands of teacher who have had as little of only 3 days of training in Judo before now teaching”.  Some judo Masters are objecting to this ruling.


Head Injury Symptoms:

According to recent statistics in the United States, it was revealed that the rate of head injuries in martial arts is nearly twice as higher as that of professional footballers.  Performing martial arts will often involve punching, kicking and bumping your head on hard surfaces.  The initial symptoms of head injuries are slight but frequent head aches.  There are other reasons why you can experience the headaches besides hitting your head.  Other causes of head injuries include neck injuries as well as a punch or kick from your opponent.  Once an athlete experiences a concussion, they are highly advised to always wear a headgear during practice, and ensure that it is properly fitted. However, after a concussion, you should never return to practice before seeing a doctor.  This is because some serious levels of concussion may require you to discontinue your training immediately.

Professional martial art instructors consider self control and emphasis on the techniques to be the most important factors that can help limit the risk of injuries.  Trainers are required to learn how to kick and punch using the right amount of force while standing in the appropriate positions.  You are also required to have the appropriate training equipment, headgear, body pads and mouth guards.  These gears will help reduce the impact of kicks and punches as well as falls.  For amateurs, it is recommended that you consult a health professional to check whether your body can withstand rigorous martial art training.

Head Injury During MMA:

This following video is of Holly Holm and   where Holly (at about 9min ) delivers a knockout kick to the head.

Injuries in Martial Arts Resources:


Cleveland Clinic recommends changes in light of brain injuries
ESPN (blog), on Wed, 25 Nov 2015 11:52:30 -0800
Since 2011, Bernick has led a brain study dedicated to researching the long-term effects of trauma on boxers and mixed martial artists. The study has enrolled 600 athletes, both active and retired, and has published results in the British Journal of





  1. Anwar

    02/01/2016 at 8:22 am

    Hello Cathy,

    Thank you so much for talking about this issue. I think it’s an issue that needs to be addressed by more people. Like yourself, I am a student of the martial arts. I studied arts such as karate and taekwondo over the years, and I feel that those two arts especially, along with Muay Thai need to have better safeguards in place. It might be better for instructors to do away with full-contact sparring altogether. Take Care!

    • Cathy

      02/02/2016 at 5:51 am

      Thank you for your thoughts Anwar. I think it is at least important to have a discussion around this. Let’s talk about the fact that not all who are hired to teach martial arts are as qualified as we may assume, and not all are prepared for, or take necessary precautions around safety.

I welcome your thoughts, insights or questions

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