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UFC extends commitment to Cleveland Clinic and fighters' brain health study

Las Vegas UFC® today announced a five-year extension of its partnership with Cleveland Clinic, and its support of the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study. The multi-year commitment and one million dollar contribution to the clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas where the study is conducted, makes UFC the largest combat sport contributor to the study.

“Research and awareness are key in setting new standards for athlete health and safety,” UFC Chief Operating Officer Ike Lawrence Epstein said. “UFC is always looking for opportunities to invest in industry-leading health and wellness programs and providing resources to develop its athletes inside and outside the Octagon.”

“We have learned quite a bit in the first four years of the study about how repetitive head trauma affects the brain and how we can detect accumulating injury,” Charles Bernick, M.D., Associate Medical Director at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and principal investigator of the study said. “The involvement of the fighting community and organizations like UFC will only help us better understand the field and protect our athletes. Their support has helped sustain the infrastructure of this very large study and will allow us to follow the participants over longer periods of time and develop ways to improve safety in combat sports, along with others exposed to repetitive head trauma.”

Larry Ruvo, Founder - Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, addresses the crowd as the UFC & Cleveland Clinic host a group of media to explain the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health on February 5, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold performs physical tests as the UFC & Cleveland Clinic host a group of media to explain the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health on February 5, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Ike Lawrence Epstein, UFC Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, addresses the crowd as the UFC & Cleveland Clinic host a group of media to explain the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health on February 5, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Established in 2011, the Professional Fighters Brain Health study is focused on developing methods to detect the earliest and most subtle signs of brain injury in athletes exposed to head trauma, as well as determining which individuals may be more likely to develop chronic neurological disorders. Now in its fifth year, researchers are confident the findings will benefit the safety and health of professional fighters as well as those exposed to repetitive head trauma in other sports and activities.

UFC’s commitment to aid in the funding of the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study is provided in conjunction with other leading combat sports organizations. These funds will help provide the necessary support to continue the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study at Cleveland Clinic, with future plans to publish and advocate about the importance of this research to the sport.

To date, the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study has enrolled nearly 600 active and retired athletes. Participation is voluntary, and fighters in the study receive free, ongoing assessments of their brain health and function, including MRI scans. Individual tests will be repeated annually for a minimum of four years.

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