is muay thai dangerous

Is Muay Thai Dangerous? Injuries, Health Risks, Safety

People know Muay Thai for its unrelenting power and lethality. So, it’s no surprise you’d be concerned about the sport’s safety. And if you’re a new practitioner, the thought of life-long injuries might distinguish your passion completely. But is Muay Thai really that dangerous?

Muay Thai’s danger varies based on the situation. Training & sparring is relatively safe under the supervision of a coach. Injuries like a muscle sprain or concussion occasionally occur in actual matches. In self-defense combat, Muay Thai can be life-threatening for the users and the opponents.

Of course, you should already know that Martial arts and danger go hand in hand. But Muay Thai might push that saying a bit further. Read on to find out how dangerous Muay Thai is.

Is Muay Thai dangerous?

Generally speaking, yes.

Muay Thai is the art of inflicting pain. No matter how you look at it, somebody will get hurt when Muay Thai is involved.

But how dangerous is Muay Thai? And why is it among the most lethal martial arts in the world?

What makes Muay Thai dangerous?

Short answer: the bones. Many Muay Thai techniques utilize striking with your bones. Needless to say, the damage they cause can be tremendous.

In Muay Thai, it’s legal to elbow and knee your opponent. After all, these are the weapons separating Muay Thai from other Martial Arts.

And as you know, the elbows and knees are less meat and more bone. So, they are harder and stronger than other body parts. And since their contact point is small, all the force concentrates on one spot — resulting in devastating power upon impact.

An elbow to the head would feel like being hit with a sledgehammer. Even if your skull didn’t break, it still caused a concussion and other brain injuries.

A flying knee to the chest is also hazardous. It sucks the air out of your lungs and can even break your rib cage. No need to imagine what would happen when it hit your face.

Of course, Muay Thai isn’t all knees and elbows. Even though they are destructive, they can be risky to use since their range is limited. So, another dangerous weapon of Muay Thai is the legs.

Kicking techniques in Muay Thai involve utilizing your shin bones. So, if a Muay Thai fighter swings a kick at you, expect the damage to be comparable to a baseball bat. Yes, it can break your bones, sprain your muscles, or even knock you out.

But that’s not all. These bone techniques can hurt the practitioners too.

After all, if you use your bones too much, they will eventually break. Especially when the bones clash. You might have seen a Muay Thai match where the winner celebrates with wobbly steps. Yes. To finish their opponent, they kicked so hard that they injured their shin or foot.

So, using bones can seriously injure both the fighter and his opponent.

Muay Thai & injuries 

What’s the worst that could happen in Muay Thai? Well… death.

During the boom of Modern Muay Thai in Thailand (around the 80s), many organizations held matches and tournaments everywhere. So, fighters of that time had many opportunities to show off their skills and make money.

However, not all rings are created equal. Some had poor safety measures — like no medics prepared nor judges on stage, and others were outright illegal. As a result, many participants suffered serious injuries. The most common ones were torn muscles, broken bones, internal bleeding, and concussions. 

And some unfortunate souls died in the ring as well.

Of course, most of the incidents happen to no-name fighters. The coaches wouldn’t allow their big shots to risk themselves like that (considering how easy it was to suffer a long-term condition). However, it didn’t change the fact that many had to end their career and life.

So, today’s Muay Thai has improved the measures to ensure the athlete’s safety. Like the medical staff, stricter rules, and trained judges. But unfortunately, these protocols still can’t prevent the casualty to zero.

The most recent death in the ring was in 2019. Panpech, a young fighter aged 13, was knocked out before passing away at the hospital. Cause of death: concussion. (Condolences to the young man and his family).

Of course, it was an accident. Nobody wanted it to happen. However, this incident broke the Teen Muay Thai industry. Many locals criticized the match organization and staff for lack of risk assessment. And some blame the coaches for not throwing the towel as well.

Note that what’s mentioned here is all in competitive settings. In a real fight, Muay Thai can be even more life-threatening. This environment has no rules, so the fighter can go all out with killing intent.

Muay Thai danger in different circumstances 

In training

If you have a coach or teacher, you are pretty much safe.

Your instructor will teach you how to attack and defend while keeping your body from harm. If you can follow the instructions, there’s little need for safety concerns.

In addition, your coach can provide you with various safety equipment. So, your training session will be as smooth and secure as possible.

On the other hand, if you choose to go on a self-taught route, you might break a wrist or two.

A video from YouTube cannot assess your posture or technique. So, you will never know if what you’re doing is correct or not. And as a result, you might develop a bad habit that slowly ruins your body as a fighter.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should never practice at home. Feel free to do so when you know what you’re doing. Or else, getting a coach is the best approach.

In sparring

Again, a spar can be relatively safe if you have a coach.

However, the risk of injury is definitely higher than in training. After all, you cannot control your sparring partner. They could go with a friendly approach or switch to competitive mode at any moment.

And besides, unlike in training, you will be taking hits. No matter how skilled you are, you can never escape from a fight without eating a punch or two. So, prepare those muscles for the impact.

What you need to pay attention to are the kicks. If you’re unfamiliar with Muay Thai, your eyes might focus on the opponent’s fists. So, when the leg strikes come, they might appear like popping out of nowhere (especially the low kicks).

And as mentioned, kicks are among the most dangerous weapons in the Muay Thai arsenal. Make sure you know how to deal with them.

In a match

Needless to say, your tendency to suffer injuries spikes in a match.

Unlike in a spar, no one will go easy on you. The punches will be fast. The kicks will be heavy. Everything you see will try to hurt you as much as possible (not to mention what you don’t see).

So, keep your guard up. Protect your vital spots. Even though the judge is right next to you, he cannot heal your bleeding or concussion.

In a street fight and self-defense

Avoid these circumstances at all causes.

Whichever side uses Muay Thai, the opponent isn’t going to like it.

Some of you may know that Muay Thai was born as a tool of war. Yes. It’s an age-old art form specializing in killing people. So, if no rule is applied, a Muay Thai fighter can become a killing machine.

If you happen to be using Muay Thai against an assault, make sure you only stun and run. You wouldn’t want to be a murderer, right? So only destroy the opponent’s balance and bail. Even if you know you can beat the assailant to a pulp, you still shouldn’t. Unintentional killing is killing, nonetheless.

But if your opponent uses Muay Thai, keep your distance and call for help. After all, Muay Thai is a close-quarter fighting technique. You should be safe if you are far enough to dodge the kicks. 

And most importantly, call for help. 1 VS 2 victory is rare in real life. So Get your number up, intimidate, and try to walk away.

Safety Battle: Muay Thai VS other martial arts

1. Boxing

Boxing, as a sport, is definitely safer than Muay Thai.

You can only damage your opponent with punches. No kicks, elbows, or knees are allowed. It’s a sport that focuses on techniques more than destructive power with all the rules and regulations.

And besides, international boxing, like the Olympics, requires you to wear safety gear in a match. So, the injury wouldn’t be as serious as in Muay Thai.

Of course, this doesn’t mean boxing isn’t dangerous. You can still get a concussion or lose your life if you’re not careful. But overall, Muay Thai is a more life-threatening sport.

2. Karate

This is a close match. It is difficult to conclude which sport is more dangerous to your health because both are equally lethal.

Without protective gear, a Karate kick can send you to the hospital in a blink of an eye. Even with the helmet, you can still get serious injuries and concussions.

And the most dangerous aspect of Karate is speed. Their kicks are usually faster than their Muay Thai counterparts. And the strength is no joke too. You can even say that kicks are the highlight of the Karate sport.

However, Karate still limits you from using weapons like elbows and knees. So, Muay Thai can be more dangerous in close quarters, depending on the circumstances.

In any case, both sports are on par with each other for health concerns. You definitely don’t want to mess with the fighters of both martial arts.

3. MMA

In this case, MMA is hands-down more dangerous than Muay Thai as a sport.

No matter how effective Muay Thai is as a knock-down tool, it has nothing to counter the grappling techniques of MMA fighters. If a pure Muay Thai fighter got himself in a lock or hold, they’re pretty much finished. 

And on a side note, Muay Thai only fights to stand. If your opponent is down on the floor, you wait until they get up. MMA, however, encompasses wrestling and has lots of floor moves to utilize. You can even sit on top of your opponent and unleash carnage on their face. Again, Muay Thai can’t do that.

So basically, MMA is more well-rounded than Muay Thai — making it a more dangerous sport overall.

4. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

For Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (or BJJ), things get a bit technical.

BJJ, at its core, is a self-defense tool. And not only does it protect you but also your opponents. The beauty of BJJ is in suppression, not inflicting pain. The practitioners only neutralize the threat, and that’s it. No killing moves. No harming intent. Just calm things down and back off.

That’s one of the reasons why BJJ is a world-class martial art. It saves lives.

Muay Thai, a martial art, can’t compare on a safety stage. It’s the art of striking down your opponent, not keeping them away from harm.

So, if you’re looking for a self-defense system that will be safer to use, BJJ is definitely a better choice.

Finally, does Muay Thai hurt?

All in all, Muay Thai is going to be painful. It’s a martial art and a combat sport; your body will inevitably receive impacts. The degree of damage might vary, from a sprain to brain damage. And death is always looming on the horizon.

However, this doesn’t mean you should shy away from Muay Thai. Knowing how dangerous the sport is, you should be able to appreciate it much more. The fighters are practically dancing with death. It requires laborious training and tremendous skills to avoid stepping on death’s toes. And they deserve respect for that.

And if you’ve trained enough to fight in a ring, you deserve the same respect too.

Like always, if you want to discover more about Thailand, stay guided with ThaiGuider. You might learn something you never knew about this unique country.


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