Saturday 26 May 2018

'Brutal MMA fuels violence in schoolyard'

Watchdog received "communications" about Carvalho tragedy

TRAGEDY: Joao Carvalho. Photo:
TRAGEDY: Joao Carvalho. Photo:

Clare Mc Cormack and Elaine Keogh

Mixed martial arts promotes violence in the schoolyard and undermines advances sports organisations have made in dealing with concussion and brain injury, a former World Rugby medical adviser has warned.

Dr Barry O'Driscoll, a cousin of former Ireland and Lions great Brian O'Driscoll, describes MMA as a "barbaric, money-making spectacle" and says the Government and sporting bodies must take the necessary action to ban it completely.

His comments follow the death of Joao Carvalho (28), 48 hours after fighting Dubliner Charlie Ward at the National Stadium in Dublin last weekend.

New figures obtained by the Sunday Independent show that more than 60 children and teenagers have been treated for concussion and chronic brain injuries - including sports-related trauma - over the last two years.

Clinical paediatric neuropsychologists at the National Rehabilitation Hospital say the phenomenal growth of MMA is a "wake-up call" as they warn that some sports-related head injuries can go "unnoticed or unreported".

"We all know over the last few years the worries that come about because of head injuries and the worries that have come about with mild head injuries and mild concussion. And yet, here we are watching people left incapable after being hit around the head. What sort of a world are we living in?" Dr O'Driscoll said.

Gardai are continuing to investigate the details surrounding Joao Carvalho death's in advance of an inquest. The Health and Safety Authority is assessing whether it should launch a full-scale investigation.

The ambulance regulator said it has received "communications" about the incident. The Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC), the body that regulates and sets standards for the pre-hospital emergency care sector, said it has received "communications" from licensed providers advising it of this incident which it will be "following up".

Last week, Sport Ireland CEO, John Treacy, said MMA has "no place" in Ireland unless guidelines and rules are implemented and rigorously followed.

Mr Treacy said he would meet with officials from the Department of Sport to review the sport in Ireland.

MMA does not receive any government funding as it is not recognised by Sport Ireland.

It is currently overseen by the Irish Amateur Pankration Association - recognised as the governing body for MMA in Ireland by the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation.

A spokesperson for the National Rehabilitation Hospital says that although no child has been admitted with brain injuries linked to combat sports "that's not to say it's not happening".

"There have been no admissions from MMA but the growth of the sport has been a wake-up call to us and we are very aware of it," she said.

The hospital, which provides specialist rehabilitation services to patients with a physical or cognitive disability due to accident or illness, treated 62 children for "traumatic and other" brain injuries in 2014 and 2015.

The figures include those who suffered concussion including - memory loss, fatigue, chronic headache and low energy - after rugby, GAA, horse-riding and soccer clashes or falls.

"If a person has had a concussion or bang to the head often it's not until later that the effects manifest. We must keep raising awareness about these types of injuries because they can go undetected," she said.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for, an online directory for fighter clubs in Ireland, insists that a knowledge of martial arts is beneficial for children.

"Martial arts in a traditional sense is a good discipline for kids to learn but purely as a form of self-defence. I would feel confident in recommending it to any kid just to give them some discipline and confidence in themselves that you will be able to look after yourself," he said.

Sunday Independent

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