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I have been doing muay thaï for 4 years. Once per week we do sparring as a part of the training. The sparring is relatively light, the goal is not to knockout the partner, not even to cause injury actually. However, some hits can pass and the head can bounce a bit. I do not even get dizzy after these types of hits. I do not compete. Under these circumstances, is there any danger of having a brain trauma or concussion?

  • Welcome to the site. Sadly, this question is about medical "what ifs" and medical advise which are both off topic. I suggest you look at the tour and the help center. – Sardathrion - Reinstate Monica Jul 19 '17 at 8:16
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    @Sardathrion This could easily fall under the acceptable, "Injury prevention within the context of martial arts training". My answer was provided in this context, as was another answer here. – coinbird Jul 19 '17 at 19:29
  • @coinbird It could possibly would fit within injury prevention but to me still reads as "what if": they are asking if there are risks, not how to minimise said risks.If any of the current answers were more woolly, they would baa. None has any references or data to back them up, all say the exact same things, paraphrased. Meh… – Sardathrion - Reinstate Monica Jul 20 '17 at 8:59
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Yes, there's a danger of concussion. My answer to another question on concusssions.

Do you know what sports end up getting a surprising amount of concussions? Soccer and volleyball. It's not because these folks are getting hit in the head all the time - it's just that when they do get hit, they have had little conditioning to help deal with the blow.

Any hit to the head has potential for concussion, and the problem of concussions is that damage builds up over your lifetime. You should see a doctor or sports doctor to get an assessment at some point. There's now pretty good tests using computer apps to measure your cognitive ability against your own baseline to see if you're suffering light concussions and an impairment over time.

Some people are more susceptible to concussion than others for no apparent reason. You may be one of those folks who catch them easily, and the only best advice is to reduce head hits as much as possible, which may mean changing martial arts or your sparring rules drastically.

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Since you don't compete, and you're sparring once a week, you probably aren't taking enough damage to cause noticeable long term affects. One issue is the shots don't always have to hurt to cause brain damage.

Any "bouncing" of the head causes damage. Jet ski riders and slalom skiers have been shown to have some of the worst brain damage of all athletes, due to that bounce (google search provides some great sources on the research). Is your sparring comparable to that? Probably not, but it's worth noting. If you ever get a headache from a couple hard shots, take some time off. Go see a doctor if the headaches won't go away.

I know you already said you don't go hard to the head, but sometimes guys get feisty. How we spar is: light to the head, hard as you want to the legs and body. It allows for people to rip some great shots. You can drop guys with a nice leg kick or body shot, and yet they're perfectly fine after the initial pain. Maybe look into this style of sparring if you're feeling spicy.

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    I have never had a headache after a training in which I had received a blow to the head. I completely agree with you regarding your last point, this is what I try to do. – Grandmaster Jul 19 '17 at 13:30
  • @Grandmaster Good to hear. Again, that doesn't guarantee your brain wasn't damaged, but it's a pretty good sign. I've had friends after fights confined to wearing sunglasses everywhere they go, even indoors, for weeks on end. I've been smashed up pretty good myself and had to lay in a dark room for a couple days. Brain injuries are no joke. – coinbird Jul 19 '17 at 13:57
  • Had you received a big blow? Were you knocked out? I hope you have recovered well. Have you had headaches again after the recovery process? – Grandmaster Jul 19 '17 at 20:08
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    @Grandmaster I'm an MMA fighter, so yes, I've been hit pretty hard. I've had my nose smashed to little pieces. I've been kicked in the back of the head (brain stem), which shuts the lights off for a couple seconds. I've never been knocked out cold, but I've had headaches after fighting, hard sparring, and the occasional grappling tournament if I bonked my head. It's all part of the game though. Just gotta respect the recovery process. I'm a huge proponent of taking time off to allow head injuries uninterrupted healing. – coinbird Jul 19 '17 at 20:41
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In short, yes. There's always that danger.

When you're training with experienced partners, this danger is near to none, as they know how to measure hit strength. However, if you train with beginners, even if it's light hits, they don't know how to measure hit strength yet, and may actually hit quite hard without intending to.

When training with only experienced partners, accidents can still happen. A slip putting extra weight in a kick, a reflex kicking in, ... . These things can happen, no matter the experience. Experience just lowers the chances of accidental hard hits.

Thirdly, given enough time, even a mountain can be removed with a shovel, one step at a time. Get enough light blows to your head, and it will definitely still leave a mark. It will be less bad than a few heavy hits, but it will still leave a mark.

And last but not least, "relavitely light" is... well... relative. Now I'm not saying lightweights pull their punches, but a lightweight's punch is light to a heavyweight. If a heavyweight does a punch that's light to heavyweights, it may still hit harder than a bantamweight fighter's ever been hit. Even within bantam / feather / lightweight divisions, there've been plenty of deaths related to brain damage (eg. Davey Moore in 1963, Johnny Owen in 1980, Cleveland Denny in 1980, etc.)

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    Heavyweight boxers are more likely to die in the ring due to sudden head trauma. Lightweight boxers are more likely to suffer from the longterm results due to spending a longer amount of time getting lesser trauma over and over again. – Sean Duggan Jul 19 '17 at 11:34

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