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21st Oct 2016

Post-mortem results in first ever diagnosis of CTE in a mixed martial artist

Jordan Parsons passed away in May

Darragh Murphy

For the first time, CTE has been diagnosed in a mixed martial arts fighter.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy has become a serious talking point in recent years, with the 2015 film Concussion starring Will Smith documenting a battle between a forensic pathologist and the NFL on the subject of brain injuries suffered by the league’s players.

CTE has largely been discussed almost exclusively in relation to American football, with suggestions from Dr. Bennet Omalu, the doctor portrayed by Will Smith in the above film, that O.J. Simpson may have suffered from the disease.

But now that the topic is gathering more traction, the spotlight is being shone on other sports and this week saw the first diagnosis of CTE in a mixed martial artist.

The post-mortem of Jordan Parsons, the Bellator fighter who was killed in a hit-and-run accident earlier this year, confirmed the symptoms of CTE according to a report in the Boston Globe from none other than Dr. Omalu.

The disease can only be diagnosed in direct tissue examination post-mortem and Omalu’s findings showed that the repeated head trauma sustained by MMA fighters can unsurprisingly lead to CTE.

“These findings confirm that the danger of exposure to CTE is not limited to just football, hockey, and wrestling,” Omalu told the Globe.

“Mixed martial arts is also a dangerous sport, and its time for everyone to embrace the truth.”

Parsons died at the young age of 25 after putting together a professional record of 11-2, with his first loss coming by way of knockout in 2012.

“As a scientist, a physician, and a person of faith, I beg everybody involved with these sports to come together and identify the problems and find solutions,’’ Omalu added.

Lawsuits have been pursued in the recent past against the NFL and the NHL, as well as professional wrestling organisation World Wrestling Entertainment, after CTE was recognised in athletes competing under their respective brands.

And the Parsons discovery could well open the door to legal action being taken against MMA promotions in the coming years.

“Jordan was a shining star in this sport and a beloved member of the Bellator family who we miss very much and we continue to honour through the ‘Jordan Parsons Memorial Scholarship Fund’,” Bellator president Scott Coker said in a statement.

“Bellator MMA is committed to the safety of our fighters and has been a strong supporter of the Cleveland Clinic [Professional Fighters Brain Health Study] for the last few years.’’

In the latest GAA Hour, we talk to Ken McGrath of Waterford and with Declan Brennan about a new club players’ association.