Which Martial Art Has The Most Injuries? FAQs


All martial arts have the potential to cause injuries. At some point in their training or during competition, all martial artists or mixed martial artists have had to take a little time off to recover from some form of injury. However, there are some martial arts that are more dangerous than others. Which one has the most injuries and why? 

Lethwei, Burmese bare-knuckle boxing, is a martial art that is highly likely to cause the most injuries because there are two key factors that accentuate Lethwei’s natural proclivity for injuries: bare-knuckle striking and head butts are allowed in Lethwei competitions.

Aside from being the injury-causing martial art, Lethwei is one of the more obscure forms of martial arts. Very few people outside of Burma have heard of it. But that doesn’t limit its dangerous nature. Keep reading to learn more about Lethwei and why it causes the most injuries.

Which Martial Art Has The Most Injuries?

The most injury-prone martial art is a relatively obscure type of combat sport known as Lethwei. The following list highlights Lethwei’s inherent propensity for injuries:

  • Ability to headbutt. In many combat sports, this move is so dangerous that it is banned in every other santioned combat sport. But in Lethwei, headbutt is a common part of the sport.
  • Bareknuckle. There aren’t any gloves used to lessen the impact of the blows. At most, there will be some hand tape used to protect the knuckles. 
  • All types of strikes are allowed. Kicks, Punches, Knees, Elbows, Headbutts

In modern rules, the aim is to knock out the opponent. Almost anything goes when achieving this goal. If the fighter gets knocked down more than three times, the fight is over. Even if the fight lasts all three rounds, there is still an incentive to be aggressive. The judges will score the winner based on aggression, number of significant strikes per round, damage, and blood drawn

The traditional version of the sport, though, is a lot simpler. Traditional rules do not have a scoring system. Fighters can win only if they knock the opponent out. If the match goes to distance, it would be declared a draw no matter how dominant one fighter was. 

Whether modern rules or traditional rules, all Lethwei matches are violent, bloody, and visually look far away from anything that’s safe.

When it comes to more conventional martial arts sports, Tae Kwon Do(TKD) was deemed the most dangerous according to a 2005 study. The researchers found that participants in this sport had a 59 percent chance of incurring an injury that required them to take some time off from training. 

How Dangerous Is Lethwei?

Lethwei has earned the title of the most brutal sport on the planet for a reason. The use of brutal kicks, knee strikes, bare-knuckle punches, and flying headbutts all ensure plenty of potential for serious injuries. It’s no wonder that Lethwei bouts end with one, or both, fighters always bleeding. 

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How Effective Is Lethwei In A Street Fight?

Lethwei tactics aren’t just effective in the ring, they can also be used to win street fights. In training, students learn how to use the entire body as a weapon to strike.

Lethwei includes the infamous head butts and trains you to fight bare-knuckle and focus on a knockout. This makes it as real and as close to street fighting as it gets. Once the fight breaks out, there are no gloves, forbidden strikes, or referees. The faster you put the opponent out, the better chances are for you to get back home safe.

Why Do People Practice Lethwei If It Causes the Most Injuries?

Even though the thought of participating in the most dangerous martial arts can cause some people to shudder, the sport is growing. People can watch the events on popular streaming platforms like UFC Fight Pass. The UFC’s interest in the sport shows you that Lethwei is garnering a lot of attention. Many other aspects attract people to Lethwei, these include: 

  • Cultural heritage. For some people, this sport plays an important role in their cultural heritage. There are historical carvings, made in temples at Bagan, that show people engaging in this sport as early as the 11th Century.  
  • Potential to start a career. For many years, Lethwei was a very obscure form of martial art. There weren’t any opportunities for skilled Lethwei fighters to advance themselves, so many of them often turned to Muay Thai kickboxing. But this is starting to change a little. Promotions like World Lethwei Championship (WLC) are bringing global attention to the sport, including signing a deal with UFC Fight Pass to televise their events. 
  • Self-defense. Though the tactics of Lethwei are brutal, Lethwei techniques are real life practical. Each technique you learn works in real life because Lethwei fights are the closest thing to real fights, and unlike most other arts, it will teach you how to use dirty moves as well.
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Lethwei vs MMA – Which One Causes More Injuries?

In this area, many people would instinctively choose MMA. But this isn’t the case in my assessment. Lethwei, while lesser-known, is likely to cause more injuries than the MMA. Both traditional rules and modern rules Lethwei fight is set up like a bare-knuckle brawl. Fighters don’t wear gloves to soften the impact of the punches.

In Lethwei bouts, traditional rules do not include a scoring system and judges. The winner is the person who incapacitates their opponent by knocking them out or doing so much damage with all kinds of striking which includes headbutting that they can’t continue the fight. In modern rules, judges pick the winner based on aggression, number of significant strikes per round, damage, and blood drawn.

On the other hand, there are far more rules in MMA fights to protect fighters from getting seriously injured. MMA fighters must wear gloves and headbutting is banned in MMA fights. MMA fight can be stopped by the referee if one of the fighters is badly hurt to prevent further injury.

What Are The Most Common Injuries In Martial Arts?

The type of injuries you can expect will vary a little, depending on the type of martial arts you are pursuing. But, according to a study from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College which took place over nine years, the most common causes of injuries were:

  • Contusions
  • Strains
  • Sprains
  • Broken limbs
  • Broken noses

What Is The Deadliest Martial Art Move?

A general consensus is usually judged to be the rear-naked choke as the deadliest martial art move, better known as the sleeper hold. When done right, this will be enough to cause your opponent to become unconscious, because it immediately restricts blood flow to the brain via the carotid arteries. If you continued to apply the hold, the lack of blood flow could prove fatal within a minute.

Which Martial Art Has The Least Injuries?

According to research from Salve Regina University, Tai Chi is the safest martial art, with an injury rate of 14 percent. This can be attributed to the slow-motion movements that the sport emphasizes.

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How Do You Ensure Safety While Practicing Martial Arts?

It’s important to remember that all martial arts, even Lethwei, can be practiced safely. It all comes down to the way that fighters approach the training and bouts. Some of the simplest steps that can be done to prevent injuries include: 

  • Knowing the risk of each martial art
  • Have a strong warm-up and cool-down routine, so muscles aren’t overstrained. 
  • Use the right protective equipment
  • Fighter should learn their limits and work within them, avoiding taking on opponents before they are ready
  • The body needs to be given enough time to properly heal and recover from the damage sustained during a fight

Final Thoughts

Lethwei is called the most brutal sport in the world that causes the most injuries, for good reason. It is a bare-knuckle fight, with a wide range of attack methods available, including the headbutt. After each of these fights, it’s common to see fighters left bloody. Many have been left with serious injuries. Though the sport has been transformed to take a more modern approach, like separating the conflict into rounds, it has retained the violent nature of the traditional fights. 

Clay E

Clay E is a MMA/Muay Thai practitioner who was a collegiate wrestler at James Madison University.

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