A coach's dilemma.
Throughout my 15 years participation in MMA, concerns about the consequences of repetitive brain injury have been ever present. While those worries have waxed and waned, often depending on my training intensities, news cycles and personal life circumstances, they have spanned across 3 distinct stages.
I transitioned from being ignorant, to willfully ignorant to reluctantly becoming better informed.
The days of ignorance were at the beginning. While I knew getting thumped in the noggin probably wasn’t a healthy life choice, I was younger, had just found the sport, felt invincible and was too thrilled and focused on training and developing.
The days of willful ignorance were longer and probably worse, I really knew better but would convince myself with cherry picked examples and philosophize away concerns of damage and injury and only to return to sparring countless times after telling myself I’d stop.
Being a coach and running an MMA gym now has forced my perspectives to change, and in recent years start to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Ethically, I cannot in good conscience, ignore or dismiss the very real dangers and likely consequences of the sport when younger athletes trust me to guide their development.
No doctor would prescribe even a single blow to the head. Yet as MMA (Striking) coaches, we are effectively prescribing levels of brain damage to our understudies. The pledge of most medical professionals, ‘Primum non nocere’ or “First do no harm’’ is off the table to us coaches. There might be some wiggle room for it’s more nuanced interpretation ‘’First do no net harm”. But even that would be a massive stretch. Therefore coaches would be well served to at least accept and acknowledge that brain damage is not an exception in our sport. Rather it is the rule.
So why still do it? That answer might be best served with more philosophizing and is a great conversation to be had. But for now I’ll skip past it, other than to say, that personally, I feel this sport has chosen me. And despite my best efforts to distance myself, I am drawn in increasingly closer.
The Primal Brain Health Info and Awareness Page is intended as a resource for all participants in MMA. Many posts will inevitably be contradictory and conflicting, as they'll oscillate between optimism and pessimism. But I believe it can be an opportunity to inform.
Additionally, I look forward to sharing other stuff I have become fascinated with in recent years. Which are some more novel strategies, supplements, substances and therapies that might may hold some benefit in mitigating neurological damage and degeneration.
As with the Primal Podcast and Blog, the purpose of this page is to help myself learn and understand better while providing a resource to our students and community. Most importantly, I hope to initiate conversation and affect change through collaboration.
Presently, most discussions of brain damage in MMA tend to fall into either one of two camps. The side, that advocates for banning or dismiss the sport as brutal, primitive and barbaric (this is probably the correct side!). Or, the other side, that buries its head and points to other sports and whataboutism’s to validate their positions. I was in that camp for a long time. I will try to navigate the impossible middle ground here as I endeavor to contribute to the progress of the sport I love so much, while helping my students make more informed choices.
My Name is Scott Sievewright, I coach MMA/Kickboxing. I think MMA is a wonderful sport. But it's also kind of stupid and damages your brain!
So, let’s at least try to be smarter about being stupid!