UFC facing concussion problems as heat grows on the NFL

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Times are tough for combat sports and with NFL players retiring at younger ages, the UFC will surely be preparing itself for another round of question.

In the past couple weeks, the NFL has seen a multitude of high profile players including San Francisco 49ers linebacker and captain, Patrick Willis, retire due to long-term injury concerns. This has been capped off in the past day with the announcement that Willis' former teammate and his proposed successor, Chris Borland, is retiring from the sport at the tender age of 24.

Early retirement

As a result, many are already asking the question of what can the NFL do to avoid these injuries that their stars go through and the severe long-term problems they face.

The answer at the moment, is not much.

Yet for a sport like MMA, the effects of concussions and other serious injuries are plenty avoidable and many will be expecting them to step up sooner, rather than later.

Over training is an underreported problem

The UFC have already had to overcome the stigma of being boxing's younger, more aggressive and 'barbaric' brother in their televised fights - yet it's what goes on in the build-up to those events that should be the real worry.

It's well known that some camps like to train hard before a fight, not pulling any punches in their sparring sessions and making sure their fighters are fully prepared. Yet as a result of that, training partners knocking each other out is not of unheard of.

Even Anderson Silva was dragged into the mire when a video leaked before his UFC 183 return and purportedly showed him knocking out his sparring partner and continuing to rain down blows afterwards.

What goes around comes around though and Silva himself was reportedly knocked out by Khalil Rountree, who later spoke about the intense training sessions.

"We train hard to guarantee we’re going to win, and things happen during training. No big deal," Rountree told PVT.

"I know a lot of people get knocked out in training and simply don’t say, but he’s an honest guy. It happened in training but not in the fight, so it doesn’t matter."

While it's up to the fighters to train how they want, the UFC may have to consider stepping in, especially if the knock outs are happening as frequently as Rountree appeared to indicate.

Young fighters out with post-concussion problems

Perhaps one of the most telling signs of a problem is that lightweight prospect TJ Grant has been out of action now for nearly two years following a concussion. Grant suffered the concussion during a training session and had to withdraw from two title bouts after he revealed that he hadn't fully recovered from the issues.

He was subsequently removed from the UFC's lightweight rankings after being considered 'inactive' by the UFC, despite other fighters like Dominick Cruz maintaining a ranked status during an injury period.

Now, The Ultimate Fighter 18 winner, Chris Holdsworth faces the same uncertainty over his future, as he's been out of action for nearly a year with post-concussion syndrome. It's not like fighters don't expect to struggle with injuries but when it comes to the brain, it's a whole different matter.

The effects of boxing on the brain are well documented and some of the greatest of all time like Muhammed Ali have had their issues tied to their boxing past. MMA on the other hand is still young and doesn't have the case studies available yet to truly show much different it is from boxing, but give it another decade or so and we may see our first death of a former MMA fighter.

It could be one of the UFC greats that dies and when that happens, if it doesn't happen in the near future with the concerns branching over from the NFL, this ugly issue will stir once more.

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Benson Henderson
Anderson Silva
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