Bruce Allen and Chris Parry Weigh in on the BCMA vs MMA Debate

Bruce AllenSome more BCMA / MMA stuff from the local media.

Angry, loud CKNW commentator and possible Vancouver Mayoral candidate Bruce Allen jumped in with both feet yesterday and guess what? He does not like the British Columbia Medical Assocation’s proposal to ban MMA in Canada.

Bruce has been a fan and supporter of MMA for a number of years so it is great to see him add his voice to the ever growing opposition of the BCMA’s proposal.

Listen to what Bruce says:

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Also Chris Parry from the Vancouver speaks once again on this issue in today’s paper. His article is awesome due to his passion and ability to spell my name correctly.

BCMA continues firing at own feet. But at least they can fix the wounds.

Sharon Shore, senior manager of media relations at the BC Medical Association, doesn’t have a high opinion of myself, nor Province scribe Michael Smyth, nor Prov MMA blogger Spencer Kyte, nor local combat sports promoter Dave Teixeira.

Hardly a newsflash for anyone who heard Dr Ian Gillespie’s interview with Smyth on CKNW last Friday, wherein Gillespie, who wants MMA banned across Canada, admitted he hadn’t actually ever seen an MMA contest, nor did he know the rules, nor did he have injury/death rates on the sport. But he’d still like to ban it. Obviously.

If you heard Teixeira and myself on CKNW on Monday, you would have heard us both reacting in a fairly gobsmacked nature that someone in such a high and responsible position wouldn’t first watch a few minutes of the sport he wants to ban, or talk to some practitioners of the sport, perhaps some trainers, or even the ringside doctor from the recent UFC event, before going national with their push to ban. If they had, they would have heard unanimous opinions that say the opposite to what the BCMA assumes: That MMA is more violent than other sports and we should be protected from it.

Both Teixeira and myself suggested that the more sensible option might be for the BCMA to push the province to establish proper oversight of the sport, with more pre-and post-fight medical testing of fighters, and perhaps higher standards of ringside care. That’s the sort of push nobody would complain about – ever. We want more of that. We’re dying for that.

Instead, the BCMA is going into ultra-defensive mode.

From an email by Shore today, The only negative media we have received is from Mike [Smyth] and his pro-MMA Province co-hort Spencer Kyte.”

She might want to keep more of an eye on the media – Teixeira has done 40 interviews since Friday, by his reckoning, and the story has been featured (either negatively towards the BCMA or in neutral terms) by Sportsnet, ESPN, TSN, Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun and the Province, among many others, according to Teixeira’s observations on his blog.

She continued, “Our research consisted of lit reviews — of which there are few because the “sport” is so new.” (Putting irony quotes around the word ‘sport’ really demonstrates the BCMA’s even-handed attitude on the topic, doesn’t it?)

She goes on, “Plus many of the studies out there have been done on behalf of the MMA franchise (not unlike drug effectiveness studies undertaken by Merck or Pfizer).  The information we relied on includes the British Medical Association, which also calls for a ban of MMA sporting events; and the John A. Burns School of Medicine, Honolulu, Hawaii.”

Interestingly, Sharon makes no mention of “watching MMA” or “talking to people involved in the sport.” She wipes any research that backs the safety levels of MMA as being paid for by “the MMA franchise.”

I assume by ‘MMA franchise’ she means the UFC, which to my knowledge has never paid for any research on the topic, but regularly quotes from a Johns Hopkins Medical School study that says it’s safer than boxing due to the number of ways a fight can end early that don’t involve head trauma.

But let’s assume the BCMA is right and MMA fighters in thirty years time will all be dribbling neuro-vegetables. By proposing to ban the sport, rather than improve it, what the docs are saying is, ‘throw your hands up and have nothing to do with it.’
What exactly does the BCMA think will happen when you tell people who engage in MMA for a living, that they can no longer do it? Do you think they’ll go get jobs in the insurance industry? Maybe wash cars for a living?
No, they’ll keep doing it, but it won’t be advertised on TV. Instead, it’ll be like it used to be – in warehouses and vacant lots and boat docks and in people’s apartments, for gamblers and gangsters – much like it was when Vancouver first tried to pull the plug on the sport.
There won’t be ringside doctors, nor drug-testing, blood-testing, post-fight treatment, pre-fight checkups or background checks. Fighters will fight more often (this is already happening on t he amateur scene, where some people fight on consecutive days, racking up losses and KOs and coming back for more rather than having medical suspensions force them to take some recovery time).
If you ban MMA, you entrench that situation.

The recent death of a fighter in South Carolina was tragic, but it came exactly because of a lack of pre-fight testing of fighters and, in this case, a fighter who was 6’7″ being allowed to fight severely underweight as a 155lb lightweight. Proper medical oversight might have determined he had a dangerously small amount of body fat, and that shots to the head would have done more damage as a result – all assessments that have been made in the post-fight investigation. The South Carolina situation is something nobody wants, but the BCMA would ensure it was the norm.

I didn’t write a story about the BCMA ban proposal when it first came to light because, after discussions with editors at The Sun, we figured it was a non-story – “someone at the BCMA wants a media profile or is looking for some busy-work” was my first thought. But the story has stuck around, largely because the BCMA keeps on admitting to the fact that they put zero thought into this proposal, and the media keeps saying “seriously?”

So today I emailed Sharon the following:

If your people have read all the scientific papers on the topic, presumably they’ve seen the research in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, which said “it appears that basketball has a 10% higher injury rate than wrestling, 50% higher injury rate than boxing, and more than seven times higher injury rate than martial arts.” (http://www.jssm.org/combat/2/11/v6combat2-11.pdf)

I also asked when the proposals for banning dirt biking, lawn bowls, softball, cheerleading and fishing are coming, since they’re all sports with a far higher death/injury rate than MMA. I don’t expect any answers will be forthcoming.

I train in the disciplines involved in MMA whenever I can, and that, combined with a change in diet and a weekly pick-up soccer game, has seen my health markedly improve over the last twelve months. But the BCMA doesn’t want my thoughts on the validity of MMA, no matter how beneficial it has been for me.

Nor have they talked to fighters, trainers, the parents of the thousands of kids across the lower mainland who are getting in shape with MMA classes, or the seniors who I’ve seen rolling in jiu-jitsu classes all over town, or the men and women who are ensuring they can defend themselves against attack by learning how to incapacitate an attacker without throwing a punch.

They don’t seem to have much of a problem about sports where there’s a real risk of death or disfigurement (go see how many softball jersey-wearing Emergency Room patients there are at VGH every weekend, or the paralysis numbers out of cheerleading, or maybe check the figures on the number of people who die while playing lawn bowls). Instead, someone at the BCMA doesn’t like MMA, was concerned that UFC 115 resulted in a few elite fighters breaking their hands/feet while throwing punches, and decided we should all just stop doing it.

Interestingly, while maintaining that the proposal is full speed ahead, Shore is also backpedaling on the proposal – not that it won’t be delivered as promised, but that it really doesn’t mean anything until doctors across the country vote on it, and that they might not even get that chance.

“This is one of about 20 resolutions that run the gamut of health and safety that the BCMA is bringing to CMA’s conference.  At the national conference, at least 200 resolutions from medical associations across the country will be discussed and voted on by doctors.  There is no guarantee that this particular resolution will even make it to the General Council floor for discussion. Usually upwards of 300 resolutions are brought for discussion – not all of them make it because of time constraints.  If this resolution makes it to the floor, is discussed and passed (or not passed) then that will be news.  We did not seek out this recent media interest.”

Hmm. ‘We did not seek out this recent media interest.’ That’s weird, because also in Shore’s email is this: “While you, Mike and Chris were busy telling local audiences that the BCMA must be retreating, has gone underground and is no longer taking media requests — we were busy doing national media.”

So bottom line – the BCMA doesn’t want the media they’re doing, they haven’t seen the sport they want to ban, they got no negative media except for people from both Vancouver dailies, ESPN, Sportsnet and even Montreal media, and they’ve looked at all relevant studies except the studies they don’t like (which they assume were bought and paid for by ‘the MMA franchise’.

Yes folks, this is what a gong show looks like.

Note to the BCMA: If you really want to do something beneficial for B.C. residents, push the province and the federal government to give doctors a seat at the table regarding how MMA is officiated, regulated and improved. That way, you’re part of the solution, not the problem.

About Dave

Dave Teixeira is President of Dave.ca Communications Inc.
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