Dr Johnny Benjamin: Still wrong

I guess MMA Junkie’s resident sexist Dr. Johnny Benjamin wasn’t too happy that everyone called him a fucking moron last week when he claimed women should not be fighting 5 minute rounds. Many of us blasted him for basically giving a personal opinion rather than an informed medical one. So this week he comes out again and tries to use medical data (along with some snide “I’ve read medical journals so you ignorant unwashed mouth breathers better shut up” undertones) to make his point.

What’s funny is that his new article is full of mistakes, straw men, and outright misrepresentations of medical documents. All the documents Johnny referenced are available online … he didn’t bother linking them for some reason, but he did challenge us to “do the reading on your own because I certainly have.”

Yes, I’m doing the reading right now. Let’s look at the fun stuff I’ve found. From Johnny’s article:

“There are numerous well documented reports and anecdotal facts clearly indicating both direct and indirect links between fatigue and various forms of injury both in athletes and non-athletes.” (Textbook: Injuries in Athletes: Causes and Consequences by Slobounov)

One of the most relevant and cited pieces of medical literature specifically regarding MMA competition (“Incidence of injury in professional mixed martial arts competition,” Bledsoe et al, Johns Hopkins Univ. Medical School) discussed fatigue and advanced age as two significant factors related to fighter injury.

Actually, here’s what the “Incidence of injury in professional mixed martial arts competition” study he references really had to say on the subject:

Older fighters were at greater risk of injury as were those who lost a match by knockout or technical knockout (Tables 2 and 3). Those who lost their match under any circumstance—whether knockout, technical knockout, decision, tap out, choke, or disqualification—were significantly more likely to suffer an injury during the course of the competition than those who won (p < 0.001). Also, the incidence of injury increased with the length of the fight with matches lasting 4 or 5 rounds being more likely to include a fighter who suffered an injury (Tables 2 and 3).

The study didn’t make the claim that fatigue was a factor because it was 100% based on statistical information provided by the Nevada State Athletic Commission after the fact. Unfortunately, they don’t keep an area where they write “OMG Randleman and Baroni TOTALLY GASSED”, so it would have been impossible (and irresponsible) of these guys to claim that fatigue was a factor.

Furthermore, nowhere in the document do they even MENTION or IMPLY fatigue anywhere. Johnny makes the assumption all on his own that longer fights = more fatigue = more injuries. The more logical conclusion would be that longer fights = more damage = more injuries. I think I can prove that conclusion statistically (Rami, wanna help?) a lot easier than Johnny can prove his.

Still, I’m not denying his original fact that fatigued athletes are more susceptible to injury, although I will blow a few holes in how he’s trying to apply it. Let’s look at fatigue within the constraints of the argument he’s trying to make:

I am not a fan of five-minute rounds for WMMA because studies have suggested that the likelihood for injury significantly increases as athletes (male or female) tire, especially with contact and combat athletes. In most of the WMMA contests that I have watched, fatigue becomes a major factor with the current three-minute rounds.

It’s important to note that he made this argument in last week’s column. This week he didn’t even try to attach the same conclusion (or any conclusion) to his article, although it is quite obvious that the second article is an attempt to medically justify the first.

We already ripped him a new one for basing his medical opinion off of ‘most of the WMMA fights he’s watched’, especially after he stated that he’s not a fan and he doesn’t watch it. I’d be impressed if Johnny’s observations make up more than 10 WMMA fights. And even if this was a legitimate body of evidence to draw from, I’d also love to know the ones where fatigue became a major issue. Johnny said ‘most’. That would be more than 51%, right? So 11 out of 20 girls gassed? I have my doubts. Give us a list, doc!

There’s also a pretty big issue throwing around a vague term like ‘fatigue’ as well. If you want to argue that fatigue doesn’t mean a fighter is gassed but simply tired, then I could say half the 15 minute fights in the UFC involve a male fighter that is fatigued. And here we all are calling for non-championship 5 round fights … where’s Johnny to save the men from the medical dangers associated with that?

I could go on and on, but let’s move onto the next study that Johnny cites regarding fatigue related issues: “Combined effects of fatigue and decision-making on female lower limb landing postures: central and peripheral contributions to ACL injury risk.” Here’s how Johnny uses it:

Quote: “Fatigue is a contributing factor in many of the injuries that occur on the basketball court. As players run low on energy, their form deteriorates, their reaction time slows, and they lose stability in certain joints. This leaves them much more susceptible to injury than they are when they’re fresh.”

A study performed at the University of Kentucky demonstrated how fatigue can put players at risk. Nineteen Kentucky women’s basketball and volleyball team members took part in the study. Researchers had the players perform a series of running and rapid-stopping drills. They measured the women’s muscle activation patterns and ground reaction time at several points during the workout. The investigators found that muscle activation during rapid stopping was delayed when players became fatigued, rendering knees less stable and more prone to injury.” (Women’s Basketball Coaches Association)

I do wonder if this is the best study Johnny can find: one that proves running around while tired causes more leg related injuries than while fresh. And how does this apply to WMMA? We’ve all seen the occasional case where male MMA fighters suffer spontaneous ACL tears or knee injuries like this (Patrick Cote comes to mind), but I’m hard pressed to remember all those incidents in WMMA. Since it’s not happening yet, is that proof then that women haven’t hit that fatigue point? I’m not about to make that bogus conclusion, but I’d say Johnny hasn’t come close to proving his point either.

Now onto concussions. From Johnny:

Research reveals that the greater relative incidence of concussions with female athletes follows a similar biomechanical mechanism. On average, women have less neck muscle mass and fatigue faster, which renders the neck less able to absorb blows. As the neck absorbs less force due to fatigue, more of the blow is transmitted to the head and brain.

You could also say the average lightweight fighter has less neck muscle mass than the average light heavyweight. So what? Should lightweights not be allowed to fight either? And then we go back to the same vague ‘fatigue’ thing. I hate to bring it back up but it really is the only part of Johnny’s argument that isn’t window dressing. Remember: this is all supposed to justify 3 minute rounds instead of 5 minute rounds.

As much as we’d like to think it is, MMA is not the roughest toughest activity in the motherfucking universe. Female athletes specifically train for whatever sport they’re competing in so that they can last however long they need to – two 45 minute halves for soccer, 26 miles for the Boston marathon, 130+ miles for a triathlon, 4 days to climb Mount Everest, or *gasp* 15 minutes for MMA! If you open your fucking eyes, you will see endless evidence proving that women have the stamina / cardio / endurance / whatever to fight for 15 minutes. While you can use the very general fact “On average, women athletes fatigue faster than male athletes”, it’s intellectually dishonest to imply that means they can’t survive a few 5 minute rounds.

It is true though that female athletes seem to suffer more concussions than men, although there are a lot of different reports giving lots of different data on the subject, including one from the British Journal of Sports Medicine that concludes men may simply report concussions less than women. But we have some studies finding a 3% difference and articles citing a 10% difference. Why such a range? Different studies check out different sports. Different sports have different statistics. Funny enough, the only study I’ve found relating to an actual combat sport – Olympic boxing – reports that women actually suffer LESS concussions then men.

But Olympic boxing is pretty lame. I’d rather someone take a look into the actual number of concussions suffered by female MMA fighters vs male MMA fighters. These numbers are being collected by athletic commissions, so it’s not like it would be that hard to make a real determination rather than speculate on some questionably related data. But just like with the original study on MMA that Johnny tried to twist, even these numbers wouldn’t give you any basis to know which concussions are ‘fatigue related.’

Johnny Benjamin provides no evidence whatsoever that women can’t last 5 minute rounds without ‘fatiguing’, and provides no evidence that this fatigue would dramatically increase the chances of injury in MMA. Any other specifics he wishes to provide, I’d be more than happy to hear. But as it stands he’s misquoted the conclusions of the only MMA related study he lists and then backs it up with a study on fatigue and leg injuries to try and prove a point about concussions.

I can appreciate the doctor’s attempt to show where his dumb line of thinking comes from but it doesn’t change the fact that his conclusions are pretty sketchy. In my not so expert medical opinion, it sounds like he’s suffering from a pretty bad case of confirmation bias. In other words, his latest article tries to find data that backs up his predetermined dipshit claims from the week before. Even then, the stuff he’s presented is pretty weak – although maybe not as weak as he seems to think a woman is compared to a man.

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