IMMAF founder and now Honorary President, August Wallén, today issued this response to concerns raised by some members about the modification of amateur MMA rules for under 18s competition:
Although the overall response has been positive to the IMMAF – WMMAA board decision to prohibit head strikes in under 18s competition, we have received some criticism. I understand the concerns, but there are always many aspects to consider and weigh-up in making decisions of such seriousness. The doctors of our medical committee unanimously recommended against strikes to the head for minors. I am not a doctor, and if we have this recommendation, it is our responsibility to go with what the professionals say.
Our number one priority must be the health and safety of the kids under our jurisdiction! Also, if we were to go against medical recommendations and had a serious incident, how would that effect the sport? It would be devastating. Kids’ health is of the utmost importance.
Kids often recover very quickly from injuries, and it is easy to think this applies to all injuries. Indeed, this was what I myself thought. However, it is in fact the opposite for the brain, where injury during teenage years puts the participant at higher risk of permanent damage compared to an adult. I learnt this for the first time through participating in a professional boxing investigation in Sweden.
What we have built in Sweden to enable MMA competitions to take place under Swedish law is a competitor safety ladder. Competitors start with lower risk competitions and as they move up the ladder, with more experience, they increase the number of techniques permitted and length of rounds. This is a logical path, where kids are on the lowest rungs of the ladder, and as they grow older, stronger, bigger and better skilled, they move up. This safety ladder takes a pyramid shape in terms of participation, as competitors decrease in number as you move up. In Sweden, there are a lot of competitors at amateur level, less at professional and then even less who compete at elite level under UFC rules, with the least restrictions.
In comparable sports, the largest participation is from kids and a huge number compete, but not as many into adulthood. MMA worldwide doesn’t currently look like this. It is largely an adult sport. This is probably because we haven’t so far been offering an option for minors, and in developing this area we will attract more people to participate and thus grow the sport. The potential for children’s participation in MMA is enormous.
August Wallén Honorary President IMMAF – WMMAA