UFC Announces 5-Year Collaborative Extension With Cleveland Clinic for Brain Health

By: Jay Pettry
Jan 7, 2021
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The Ultimate Fighting Championship is extending its arrangement with the Cleveland Clinic to study brain health for the next several years.

The promotion announced via press release on Thursday that it has signed a five-year extension to work with the Cleveland Clinic. The goal of this collaborative effort is to study “the long-term effects of repetitive head trauma and factors that put certain individuals at high risk of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).” In addition to its support, the company is donating $1 million to the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. This study has been going on for 10 years, and the UFC will make sure it is a part of at least the next five.

“UFC is proud to continue its support of both Cleveland Clinic and the Professional Athletes Brain Health Study,” UFC Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Epstein explained. “UFC has supported this study since its inception, and we take pride in standing at the forefront of helping set new standards for athlete health and safety in all sports. Dr. Bernick and Dr. Ritter are doing an amazing job, and we look forward to helping them advance their research.”

The Professional Athletes Brain Health Study was formed in 2011 to study a group of professional fighters. As it has grown, it has since added focus to several other sports that also feature frequent head trauma, like professional bull riders. The study has expanded to include over 800 athletes, both retire and active, in the voluntary tests and scans. Every year, many of these athletes come in to get tested, so that changes can be tracked and observed over time.

Founder of the study Dr. Bernick was thrilled at this news, explaining, “The support provided by the UFC has been fundamental to the success of the study, allowing us to reach this 10-year milestone in our research. Not only has their financial commitment helped to sustain the infrastructure needed for this ongoing project, the encouragement they have given fighters to participate and the expense they have offered in regards to mixed martial arts has been invaluable.”

Following his colleague’s response, co-lead investigator Dr. Ritter concluded, “Our study is unique because we are attempting to look at all of these factors — whether they are genetic, inflammatory, based on the number of fights, time between fights, etc.— simultaneously to determine which are most important in keeping an athlete’s brain healthy. The key for the next 10 years is to discover which factors are most crucial in each individual. The Professional Athletes Brain Health Study is the largest and longest-lasting study to look at this issue. Without the support of the UFC, a study like this would never happen.”

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