Medical care in unlicensed combat sports: A need for standardised regulatory frameworks

Alex Channon, Christopher Matthews, Mathew Hillier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To explore the provision of medical care at ‘unlicensed’, full-contact amateur and lower-level professional combat sports competitions in England. Design: Qualitative, mixed methods. Methods: Observations totalling 200 h of fieldwork shadowing medical professionals at 27 individual combat sports events, alongside formal, semi-structured interviews with 25 medical professionals, 7 referees and 9 promoters/event staff. Results: Practices and standards vary widely. Event organisers and promoters often have very little understanding of how different types of medical practitioners operate. They rarely, if ever, check that the staff they are hiring are qualified, sometimes resulting in unqualified staff being used to provide medical cover at events. Venues are often poorly equipped to accommodate basic medical procedures. Patient confidentiality is very often compromised. Medical professionals often have limited autonomy within the combat sports milieu and may find themselves marginalised, with their judgements overruled by non-medical staff during competitive events. Some practitioners are cognisant of the dangers such working environments pose to their professional reputations and livelihoods, but remain working within combat sports regardless. Conclusions: Despite pockets of good practice, the lack of standardised rules for medical care provision creates substantial risks to athletes, to practitioners and the standing of the profession. The development and implementation of standardised, enforceable regulatory frameworks for full-contact combat sports in England is urgently needed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Science and Medicine in Sport
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2019


  • Boxing
  • Sociological Factors
  • Martial Arts
  • Professionalism
  • Regulation
  • Sociological factors
  • Martial arts


Dive into the research topics of 'Medical care in unlicensed combat sports: A need for standardised regulatory frameworks'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this