CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) is a risk in combat sports like Muay Thai due to head impacts. However, with proper training that limits hard head contact, along with safety gear, the risk can be greatly reduced. Overall Muay Thai is generally considered a safe sport when practiced responsibly over the long run.
1. What is CTE?
CTE is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated head trauma.
It is commonly associated with contact sports such as football, boxing, and mixed martial arts. The repeated trauma causes the brain to develop a buildup of a protein called tau, which damages the brain cells and can lead to neurological and psychological disorders.
2. Symptoms of CTE
The symptoms of CTE can vary from person to person and can take years or even decades to develop. The most common symptoms include memory loss, confusion, depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. In some cases, CTE can also cause physical symptoms such as tremors, difficulty with balance, and speech problems.
It’s important to note that not everyone who suffers repeated head trauma will develop CTE, and the severity of the disease can vary widely. However, studies have shown that contact sports such as Muay Thai can increase the risk of developing CTE, particularly if the athlete has suffered multiple concussions or other head injuries.
Factors that contribute to CTE in Muay Thai
From my research, repeated head trauma seems to be the main factor contributing to CTE in Muay Thai fighters. This can come from punches, kicks, elbows, and knees to the head.
However, getting punched or kicked in the head/face has different risk factors than elbows and knees; often the skull or bone is exposed on top of concussive force from elbow strikes. It’s worth noting that not all Muay Thai fighters will develop CTE. Factors such as the number of fights, the intensity of those fights, and an individual’s susceptibility to brain injury can all play a role in determining whether or not a fighter will develop CTE.
Preventing CTE in Muay Thai
1. Protective Gear and Equipment
One of the most critical steps to prevent CTE in Muay Thai is to wear proper protective gear and equipment. Good quality headgear is essential to protect the head from the impact of punches, kicks, and elbows. The headgear should be well-fitted and offer adequate padding to absorb the impact.
A mouthguard is also crucial to protect the teeth and jaw from damage. Shin guards can help protect the shins from injury during kicks.
Using gloves appropriate for your weight class and skill level is also essential. Gloves with more padding can help reduce the impact of punches and kicks to the head. Additionally, hand wraps can provide extra support and protection to the hands and wrists.
READ NEXT: Do Muay Thai Fighters Break Their Legs?
2. Training Techniques and Strategies
Proper training techniques and strategies can also help prevent CTE in Muay Thai. One important method is to avoid taking unnecessary hits to the head during sparring and training. Fighters should focus on blocking, evading, and counter-attacking rather than taking blows to the head.
Another important technique is developing strong neck and core muscles. A strong neck can help absorb the impact of punches and kicks to the head, reducing the risk of CTE. Core strength can also help improve balance and stability, reducing the risk of falls and head injuries.
Finally, it is essential to take breaks and rest when necessary. Overtraining and fatigue can increase the risk of head injuries and CTE. Fighters should listen to their bodies and take time off when needed to allow for proper recovery.
Based on the available research, it is difficult to determine precisely how common CTE is among Muay Thai fighters. While some studies have suggested that the risk of CTE is higher in combat sports like Muay Thai, much is still not fully understood about the condition and its causes.
It is clear, however, that repeated head trauma is a risk factor for CTE and that Muay Thai fighters are at risk of sustaining such injuries. Fighters, coaches, and medical professionals must minimize this risk through proper training, protective equipment, and regular medical checkups.
While the risk of CTE cannot be eliminated, there are steps that can be taken to reduce it. Fighters should be aware of the risks associated with their sport and should take steps to protect themselves from head injuries. Coaches and medical professionals should work together to ensure that fighters are receiving the best possible care in terms of injury prevention and treatment.