Around the sporting world, professional organizations are making moves to make their sport safer. For example, the National Football League is taking up a crusade to eliminate helmet to helmet hits that cause severe concussions and can ruin an individual’s career and life after the game. This past summer a similar movement was mentioned within the Mixed Martial Arts world as grumblings about the use of leg locks began to arise.
A leg lock is a maneuver that attacks on of the joints in the leg such as the knee, ankle or hip. When applied correctly they can quickly end a fight between two mixed martial art professionals. However, they can also ruin a person’s health and career. The leverage applied to one of those specific joints can cause a dislocation or break that is hard to repair and fully recover. A correctly applied leg lock can cause damage to the muscles, tendons and ligaments within the leg. Even worse they can cause a fracture or dislocation of the affected joint.
At one point in time, mixed martial arts events were governed by very few rules that protected fighters. In recent time those rules have changed to ensure a level of fighter safety that was not present during the early times. Would the banning of leg locks further ensure fighter safety?
Leg locks are banned from many different grappling competitions and some are not allowing depending upon your belt level. For example, the North American Grappling Association, also known as NAGA, does not allow the use of leg locks for any competitors in the white belt or beginner classes. This is to help ensure the safety of those competitors from an over anxious grappler who may crank to hard on the hold and cause an injury. Even when training, it’s often enforced to never lock in any hold that attacks a leg joint. Rather the person you are training with is taught to tap immediately to help avoid injury.
Injuries to a joint within an athlete’s legs can quickly break their career. For example, take how rarely athletes in the NBA or NFL return to full form after an injury to their knees. Some are out for more than a year and still have a hard time becoming the player they once were. A mixed martial artist faces just as much, if not more risk of damage to their legs through attacks such as leg kicks and leg locks. Look at the sheer agony that Tomasz Drwal was in after the heel hook that was applied by Rousimar Palhares. The maneuver brought Palhares the victory in 45 seconds but also a fine and a 90-day suspension. The New Jersey State Athletic Control Board reviewed past Palhares fights in which he held onto leg locks for too long after a fight was finished. In those instances the receiving fighter was not seriously injured, but that could easily not be the final case.
Professional fighters are trained to protect their selves from a myriad of attacks and submissions. As the sport continues to evolve to find its place in the mainstream, safety precautions may continue to change as well. It’s possible that regulation boards may require the leg lock to be taken away from some fighters. But does that create a slippery slope and what about other questions that are raised? This is quite the debate to be held within the MMA world.
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