The type of blow to the head that Gunnar Nelson suffered in his fight in Glasgow last night causes brain damage, according to Hjalti Már Björnsson, an emergency room physician at Iceland’s Landspítali National University Hospital, RÚV reports. The Argentinian Santiago Ponzinibbio defeated the Icelandic mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter last night after one and a half minutes in the ring. Gunnar received two heavy blows and collapsed after the second.
“The head is not designed to be beaten and it is quite clear that when people get such hits to the head, just like we saw Gunnar get yesterday, it results in brain damage. The heavier the hits, the more serious, but it is well known that even many small blows can cause long-term damage to the brain,” Hjalti remarked. He added that the consequences of repeated blows to the head can appear long after the damage itself is done, citing Mohammed Ali as an example. “In my opinion, MMA is violence and competing in violence doesn’t change it into a sport. It’s obvious that in MMA, the point is to give heavy blows to the head”, Hjalti added.
Jón Viðar Arnþórsson, chairman of Mjölnir, Iceland’s largest martial arts association, told RÚV that consensual participation in martial arts tournaments can’t be considered violence. “Blows to the head are dangerous and we know that better than anyone. We just choose to do this. It is what we want to do and love to do.” Jón Viðar continued by pointing out that mixed martial arts are not the only sport where getting hit in the head is a considerable danger. “Gunnar has been practicing martial arts since he was 13 years old. This is the first time he has blacked out. If you talk to any soccer players or goalies and ask how often they’ve blacked out or got pummeled in the head, they can usually tell of a few times when that has happened.”