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Importance of Hygiene in Martial Arts – Part I

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Few sports have as drastic an effect on one’s cardio and physique as MMA. The constant movement, variety of exercise, and inherently strenuous nature of the sport make it the best around for developing superior conditioning. If you are aware of the physical nature of the sport, you must also be aware that it contains quite a bit of one-on-one contact, and the risk of skin infection is very high—especially if proper gym and training area sanitation isn’t utilized (as well as thorough cleaning of live-combat cages and rings). Moreover, if you attempt at the grappling-based sport on a leisurely manner in a gym, it already poses a sizeable risk of some skin ailment(s). MMA, on a more serious note, features an additional risk of more serious disease contraction, due to the possible exchange of blood as a result of a cut.

Accordingly, sanitation in MMA is of the utmost importance, even more than entirely stand-up based combat sports like boxing, where there is a risk of developing a cut(s), or having the blood from these cuts open within range of another athlete. Furthermore, grappling sports, such as BJJ or wrestling (where cuts and blood loss are less frequent), have more skin-to-skin contact when compared to stand-up routines. As the culmination of these disciplines, as well as several others, any area where MMA athletes will compete or train must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized; the combined risks are much greater than those posed by other individual combat sports. Additionally, athletes must be tested and screened regularly to assure that any potential infection(s) and disease aren’t set to start an epidemic within the sport.

Most MMA fans and athletes are well aware of this. Especially in times other than the most recent of MMA’s existence, numerous MMA athletes have suffered from serious skin ailments—namely, (due to their potentially life-threatening nature) staph infections. However, staph infections can be avoided if thorough precautions are taken before and more importantly after the fight focusing on one’s own hygiene habits.

MMA fighter and BJJ-ace Vinny Magalhaes was forced to pull-out of Metamoris 3, a BJJ tournament, due to an absolutely disgusting staph infection on his leg—and that’s not a personal opinion! The terrifying wound was certainly difficult to look at, and more pressingly, was a sizeable threat to Magalhaes’ leg and overall well-being. Luckily, with the help of medical professionals and some smart thinking on his part, Magalhaes was able to fully recover from the injury, and has gone on to compete in two additional Metamoris events in the meantime.

A similar incident also happened December 2014 when Mohammad Ghorabi’s staph infection halted his Desert Force 14 main event fight in Saudi Arabia against longtime rival Aniss Al Hajjajy.

Staph infections as a result of actual bouts are also a possibility, when one fighter fails to disclose a possible staph outbreak to his or her opponent, or the bacteria from a previous bout remains uncleaned in the cage or ring. Granted, this particular infection could have been contracted before the bout, but the point is that somewhere along the way, there was a non-disclosure of disease or an absence of sanitization standards.

If it isn’t clear now, one should do themselves a favor and try to stomach the results of a Google “MMA staph infections” image search. That should drive the point home if it isn’t there already: sanitization in MMA is of the absolute utmost importance. Failure to take proper health and safety precautions can have disastrous implications, and potentially endanger the lives of athletes. As knowledge of these facts (and training in general) has spread through the MMA community, the staph and other skin based-infections that have been contracted have certainly decreased in quantity.

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  • The risk of skin infection in MMA players is very high. Infection can be avoided by taking care of one’s hygiene, and one of the best cure to fight against infection is tea tree oil.

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