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The Mental Health of Combat Sports Athletes

Football, Soccer, Cheerleading are the most widely known sport for injury. Running at full speeds or flying through the air subjects us to serious bodily injury. My freshman year in highschool playing football, we had a JV team member who passed away from his internal injuries sustained in a football game. Sports can be very dangerous. Combat sports are of no exception.

There's the obvious injuries in combat sports, like Connor Mcgregor and Anderson Silva's leg breaks. We see broken noses, broken hands, ribs, all kinds of nasty bruises n cuts. One thing we don't see though is the mental health toll. Fighting isn't really a team sport, you have your camp and you kind of represent them when you fight but it's still a 1 V 1 sport. So when you lose, it's all on you.

There's the emotional aspect of failing yourself in a loss, failing your camp, everything you thought you were fighting for. That doesn't even compare to the possibility of head injury though. The increased risk of developing Parkinson's. We see it in boxers like football plays and other high contact sports, the brain sustains damage over time after being rattled around inside our skull so much.

Fighters are supposed to be the toughest bunch out there. Showing any sign of weakness or vulnerability feels awful. Some are brave enough to make a stand though. Tyson Fury has recently been quoted as saying his toughest opponents aren't the ones you can see, but the ones inside our head.

I remember when I was playing football, and our teammate Taylor Haugen died. It was surreal like, we we're only playing football? How did this happen? The other teams players that had tackled him quit playing, couldn't even leave their rooms. Our team was looking around at each other hoping nobody else gets injured like that. So our school and Taylors parents started a foundation to improve safety padding to protect against the types of injuries Taylor sustained. Which is midsection padding to absorb shock and prevent internal injury specifically wide receivers who often are jumped up, arms spread, mid section wide open. Taylor had a catch phrase that still lives on - "Don't quit, never give up."

That's what we should do with mental health. Not just for fighters but for everyone. Mental health is a serious issue that needs the stigmas of weakness and keeping it to ourselves, removed. If people like Tyson Fury can come out and say he's struggled with mental health. If Taylors legacy of never giving up and his foundation saves more lives and prevents injury for football players. We can carry the same sentiment about mental health for ourselves and others.

Don't Quit, Never Give Up.


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