SportsEvents Magazine

AUG 2018

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August 2018 38 t SPORT Report "It's rare to have a serious injury," said Jon Frank, president of United States Fight League (USFL), the regulatory and sanc- tioning organization for youth, public safety and military pankration. Modern pankration is a mixed martial art that encompasses grappling and limited contact striking. Rules emphasize tech- nique and sportsmanship, making it safe and suitable for competitors of all ages, officials say. In fact, the sport has a less than two percent injury rate, on par with soccer, Frank said. Ryan Brueggeman, national director and vice president of USA Mixed Martial Arts Federation, offers further reassurance. "There are less injuries than high school cheerleading," he said. "Kids are more likely to get a concussion in soccer from hitting a ball with their head than they are with MMA, Realistically, it's very, very safe." About 3.4 million kids age six and above participate in mixed martial arts for fitness each year, with about one million of those competing in the sport, according to figures from the Sports and Fitness Indus- try Association (SFIA). But even as the sport increases in popularity, professional competition is only allowed in California and Florida. In Missouri, where it had been legal, the gov- ernor recently signed a law banning those 17 and younger from competing in mixed martial arts or professional kickboxing. It's a bit of an uphill battle to even get officials to talk about it in other states. "Legislators are concerned about safety before they'll allow it," Frank said. It's understandable, if misinformed, he said. Brueggeman said the problem is that laws are made by politicians who do not understand the sport. "Trying to get them to understand what they're actually dealing with instead of what they're perceiving to be dealing with is tough," he said. "It's the perception. They look at UFC, Bellator, these things on TV and they think that's what it's going to be." They don't take into account safety restrictions at the youth level, he said. "It's a gross misunderstanding. It's not putting two kids in a cage and let them start throwing punches at each other." The safety regulations are strict. Kids are required to wear headgear. No contact with the head is allowed at all once one of the kids goes down. Only three hits are allowed to the body once one competitor goes down. Kids are not allowed to do twisting leg submissions and can't apply pressure beyond the normal movement of the neck. No elbow strikes are allowed. This September, an independent medical study is expected to publish findings re- garding safety in the sport. Initial findings indicate the injury rate for youth pank- ration to be 15 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures, none of which were related to concussions. "We think once that's done, it will prob- ably open the door to a lot more competi- tions in a lot more areas," Frank said. While the number of competitions is growing slowly, the number is not keeping pace with the demand of participation. "As Modern pankration rules emphasize technique and sportsmanship. About 3.4 million youth compete in pankration each year.

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