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Soccer kicks. Dangerous? Awesome? Or dangerously awesome?

(there’s a few dozen foot stomps and knees to the face of a grounded opponent in this video too, I hope you don’t mind)

Soccer kicks to the face are hypnotic to watch, mainly because they seem so crazy deadly. But are they really as bad as they look? MMA Junkie’s Dr Johnny Benjamin says yes and breaks down some numbers to prove it:

Broken necks (cervical spine fractures) can easily injure the spinal cord and cause permanent paralysis and, in some cases, death. Depending on the positioning of the head at impact, direction and magnitude (vector) of the blow, the neck will break (fracture) at roughly 800 to 1,000 foot-pound force (preferred unit is Newtons (N) but I will not bore you with the math).

The average casual adult soccer player can kick a ball with 1,000 foot-pound force. The average professional soccer player can kick at about 1,200 foot-pound force. My educated guess is that an elite, highly trained MMA artist will perform very similar to the professional soccer player.

As we can see, the MMA athlete can very easily generate more than enough force to cause a very significant injury (specifically cervical spine fracture) to a grounded opponent. If the neck luckily is not broken with this crude, unskilled maneuver, the trachea (wind pipe) and carotid artery also lie directly in harm’s way; significant trauma to either can be permanently life-altering.

Based on this, I find it amazing that necks aren’t being snapped left and right on a weekly basis in MMA. The science above implies we should be seeing roughly the same amount of fatalities in a month as your average Jean Claude Van Damme movie. You could make the argument that a soccer kick isn’t all that different from your standard head kick – tell me kickboxers aren’t landing shin to neck at 1200 foot-pound force on a regular basis and I’ll say you don’t watch enough K-1 highlights.

So where are all the broken necks? Is there really that big of a difference between a soccer kick motion and your run of the mill Crocop decapitation? Or is all of MMA extremely dangerous, and we just ban the stuff that makes people go “Wait a second, why is this legal again?”

  • Reverend Clint says:

    its not like soccer kicks happen all that much when they are legal and clearly nobody has come forwards with a broken spine or even some damage. Sounds like Dr benny is just trying to remain relevant.
    MMA is a job as well as entertainment… these fighters know the rules, usually, and know when they might encounter a soccer kick to face, or at least i hope so. Ive worked jobs that were dangerous but thats why i was being paid to do it not out of the kindness of my heart, shit my job if something went wrong id be killed instantly.

  • zegrapplez says:

    comparing a player in one sport kicking a ball to another fighter kicking a human head are just not the same. and i’d wager, a stomp to the face is different on some level than a shin kick to the temple.

    I don’t doubt the danger of soccer kicks anymore than i doubt the danger of shin kicks to the head.

    i would guess that the problem is, i’ve often seen soccer kicks lead to repeated kicks to a fighter that is outright unconscious or very nearly there. rather than KO level head kick that puts the fighter out and perhaps receives some follow up punches on the mat.

    it’s the repeated kicks to the head of a guy that is pretty much out i think that makes soccer kicks so dangerous.

  • raizor says:

    Nevermind soccer kicks, we want knees to the head of grounded opponent back! 

  • Obviously you can generate more power kicking low than kicking above your shoulders and a body on the ground has a much smaller range of motion than one standing and so is less able to absorb the blow. Therefore soccer kicks to a downed opponent are more dangerous than head kicks to a standing opponent. That said, they used to happen in Pride and no one ever got their neck snapped. The reason they are banned in the UFC is not because of safety but because MMA was trying to get relegalized in 47 states and a sport that allows a man to kick another man in the face who is already on the ground is one of those things that make state legislators go “hmm.”

  • Oontyex says:

    Its not that I dont believe what he’s saying about force vs damage etc. But, if everything he was saying was right and had factored in all the variables we’d have seen alot more parapleigics coming out of PRIDE (out of all the finishes by soccer kick, how many resulted in neck fractures? how does this compare to the doctors implications? ).  This was not the case, which to me, suggests that this guy has not factored in something properly, or overestimated the significance.

  • With the soccer kicks I’ve watched the standing fighter rarely gets a full wind-up. He usually panics or is surprised and whiffs at the head. That plus the guy on the ground is usually still moving and they probably end up being less force than a cro cop kick. Huerta took a pretty short shin to the face and that was enough to put him to sleep.

  • MadMan says:

    The ability of a grounded fighter(s) spinal cord to absorb the energy delivered by a kick to the head is obviously substantially less than that of a standing fighter. The fighters of PRIDE were incredibly lucky that no one was permanently or fatally injured. That being said; even 1 person being permanently disabled or worse is 1 too many. I would much rather have them err on the side of caution than to take unnecessary risks with a fighters life.

  • iamphoenix says:

    Maybe if fighters put on a soccer ball on their heads soccer kicks can be legal.

  • frickshun says:

    Madman also wants to ban bad intentions. There’s no room for them in this sport, I tell ya!!

  • Reverend Clint says:

    no evil eyes or curses too!

  • MadMan says:

    after the face-off each combatant flashes their bestest smile….whoever conveys the most happiness & sunshine is declared the Ultimate Friendly Champion   :)