Perhaps there's a black belt in your child's future. But for safety's
sake, kids should only engage in noncontact forms of martial arts, a new
American Academy of Pediatrics report says.
About 6.5 million U.S. children practice martial arts such as mixed martial
arts, karate, taekwondo and judo. While these popular sports can improve
fitness, motor skills and emotional development, they also carry the risk
Certain disciplines are riskier than others, the pediatricians' group says.
"There are so many different types of martial arts for families to
consider and enjoy, but such a difference in injury risk between the different
non-contact and sparring forms," report author Dr. Chris Koutures
said in a news release from the medical group. Koutures is a member of
the academy's Executive Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness.
Bruises and sprains account for most martial arts injuries, but more serious
injuries also occur. Certain practices in mixed martial arts, for instance,
carry a higher risk of concussion, suffocation, spine damage, arterial
ruptures or other head and neck injury, the academy notes. These risky
movements include direct blows to the head, repetitive head thrusts to
the floor and choking movements, the academy says.
Injury rates vary from 41 to 133 injuries for every 1,000 athletic exposures,
depending on the type of martial art, the report says.
With no proof that protective equipment such as soft helmets and mouth
and face guards prevent concussions, this gear may provide a false sense
of safety, according to the academy.
"We hope that this report will enable pediatricians to help families
select the most appropriate options for their child and realize how strongly
certain practices and rules can impact a participant's safety,"
The group recommends delaying martial arts competition and contact-based
training until children and adolescents show adequate physical and emotional
maturity. The report also recommends eliminating a taekwondo rule that
awards extra points during tournaments for kicks to the head because these
increase the risk of concussion.
But mixed martial arts seems most concerning. Even watching too much mixed
martial arts may put children at risk of injury if they imitate what they
see, the academy says.
The report appears online Nov. 28 in the journal Pediatrics.