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MMA / Sports Law

Former MMA Fighter Diagnosed With CTE

Former Bellator MMA fighter Jordan Parsons was diagnosed with CTE.  A drunk driver hit Jordan Parsons six months ago at the age of 25.  After examination from a medical doctor he has been publicly identified with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease made infamous by the documentary League of Denial.  The first person to discover CTE, forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, performed the examination on Parsons.

Since CTE was first discovered in 2012 by Dr. Bennet Omalu on former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster professional sports, especially football, have become the target of many lawsuits.  The NFL notoriously fought and lobbied against the claims that football damaged players’ brains. Players are currently suing the NFL claiming that the league new about the dangers of the sport but misled players on the real risks.  The NHL and WWE are also undergoing lawsuits.

From the Boston Globe:

The National Hockey League faces a similar legal challenge, and the Parsons case signals the possibility of court action against the MMA industry by participants of the combat sport. The industry’s leader, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, was sold to a Hollywood conglomerate in July for $4 billion.

“These findings confirm that the danger of exposure to CTE is not limited to just football, hockey, and wrestling,’’ Omalu said in an interview. “Mixed martial arts is also a dangerous sport, and it’s time for everyone to embrace the truth.’’

Ringside Analysis:

It was only a matter of time until a prominent MMA fighter was diagnosed with CTE.  The consistent blows to the head that athletes endure are similar to the smaller collisions that happen in football every play.  Parsons wrestled through high school before competing in MMA as a 17-year old.  He became a professional at 20 years of age and became the featherweight champion in the Championship Fighting Alliance.

The WWE is in the midst of a lawsuit from former wrestlers because of the brain damage they sustained while working for the company.  MMA is different from the WWE in the sense that WWE results are determined before the show and as a result is considered “entertainment” and not a “sport.”

A concussion management program was put in place at the UFC in 2008, which should limit their exposure.  The NFL refused that brain damage was an occurrence in the sport for years and still denies the extent to which football plays a part in creating the degenerative brain disease.   While the NFL fought tooth and nail to reject the scientific studies of CTE, the WWE and MMA as a sport have not engaged in the same unethical practices.  The UFC has been very pro-active with contributing to concussion research through the large donations to the Cleveland Concussion Clinic.



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