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UFC champion Conor McGregor is reportedly concerned he may suffer a traumatic injury due to repeated blows to the head. This is according to McGregor’s head coach John Kavanagh,who spoke to the Irish Independent regarding head injuries in mixed martial arts (MMA).
According to that report, Kavanagh admitted McGregor ‘harbored concerns’ over potentially suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). "It's a concern of every fighter. At that level of fighting the risk is very real," said Kavanagh before stating that McGregor’s style of fighting should limit the risk of sustaining CTE or a traumatic brain injury (TBI). “I think you can add on two hands the number of clean head shots Conor has taken in 10 years of pro-fighting. His style of fighting answers that, because his style is not brawling. He doesn't step in the pocket and exchange punches.”
In a November, 2015 interview with the UK’s GQ Magazine McGregor also discussed the potential of a brain injury in MMA. “I know that in the fighting game, you get people who get brain damage and do themselves long-term harm,” said McGregor on that occasion, whilst also saying he wished to “get out” of the sport at a relatively young age.
In April, 2016 McGregor was cageside when Portuguese fighter Joao Carvalho suffered a fatal brain hemorrhage during a fight with his SBG Ireland teammate Charlie Ward. In response to that tragedy McGregor told Men’s Health (via Independent.ie), “It's f—ked up. I wasn't just watching that fight. I helped train a guy to kill someone, and then someone wound up dying.”
Kavanagh’s latest comments come shortly after a special event in which Professor Dan Healy addressed an audience of MMA fighters on the dangers of CTE and TBIs. The event occurred at the Royal College of Surgeons housed at Dublin’s Beamount Hospital.
According to Independent.ie Healy, who is a neurologist, stated an admiration for MMA as a sport, but enforced the risks associated with head trauma. "I'd like to see every young man and woman who decides to fight to do so knowing that every possible avoidable risk has been minimised," said Healy, who then stated he himself had observed five brain haemorrhages among MMA fighters in Ireland.
Brain hemorrhages can be caused by an impact to the head which forces the brain to accelerate within the skull at such a force that blood vessels within the brain are torn apart. This type of injury affected multiple boxers in 2016, including Scotland’s Mike Towell who died of an epidural hematoma in September.
Healy told the room of fighters that CTE concerned him the most about combat sports. CTE occurs as the result of concussions. When the brain undergoes rotational acceleration within the skull at a rate sufficient to cause someone to fall unconscious it prompts the release of a protein known as pTau. Over time pTau can destroy parts of brain tissue leading the sufferer to potentially experience symptoms such as depression, dementia, and suicidality.
Conor McGregor won his second UFC championship belt at UFC 205 in November, 2016. Some reports have since stated that McGregor - who has fought six times in two years - willtake a prolonged leave of absence from the sport.