Are you wondering why UFC fighters ice their neck and chest?
In this article, we’ll look at why UFC fighters ice their neck, upper back, and chest during fights.
Why Do UFC Fighters Ice Their Neck and Chest?
The primary reason UFC fighters ice their neck in the minute rest between rounds is because they’re overheating and it’s the quickest way to cool down – and cooling down has many benefits for athletic performance and winning the fight. This includes a slowed heart rate, maintaining muscular endurance, increased focus, and more.
UFC fighters also ice the back of their neck, upper back, and chest to reduce pain and inflammation which can be vital in maintaining a UFC fighter’s athletic performance.
Let’s take a closer look at why UFC fighters ice their neck and chest and the benefits of doing so.
1. Cools Fighters Down for Various Benefits
UFC fighters icing the back of their neck cools them down by reducing the temperature of the blood flow to the brain. This is important for a few reasons.
Firstly, cooling down helps a fighter avoid excessive sweating, which can impact athletic performance due to dehydration and electrolyte loss/imbalances.
This problem can easily happen if a fighter’s had a long weight cut where they’ve seriously dehydrated themselves, as it can take up to 72 hours to fully rehydrate and fighters are competing one day after their weigh-ins.
It’s also because MMA fights have 5-minute rounds and fighting at this intensity for this amount of time leads to overheating and sweating.
Secondly, cooling down helps a fighter maintain muscular endurance as overheating reduces the muscle’s ability to contract repeatedly as intensely, and for the duration of an MMA fight.
A 2011 study looking at eight male endurance athletes performing running tests concluded that cooling the neck increased how long it took them to reach exhaustion by reducing their perceived levels of thermal strain. This means they could exercise longer.
Thirdly, icing the back of the neck and chest causes UFC fighters to wake up and regain focus because of the shock caused by the difference in temperature. This mild shock causes a burst of adrenaline throughout the body which can also aid in reducing pain.
Lastly, cooling down helps a fighter calm their nerves, control their breathing, and regain their composure. This is done by cooling the vagus nerve, which can be stimulated with ice to the back of the neck or chest.
The vagus nerve is key in the parasympathetic nervous system, and cooling it down activates it so it sends signals to the brain to relax. As a result, a fighter’s heart rate is slowed and breathing controlled.
Fighters who are more relaxed and breathing properly are getting more out of their minute rest than their opponent, and are more ready and composed for the start of the next round. Their stress is reduced and their muscles are more relaxed.
2. Reduces Pain and Inflammation
UFC fighters ice their neck and back to reduce pain and inflammation in these areas. The cold ice reduces pain and inflammation by constricting blood vessels and decreasing circulation. This helps UFC fighters remain loose and pain-free, and maintain athletic performance for the remainder of the fight.
The muscles in the neck and upper back are heavily taxed during an MMA fight because they’re constantly contracting when striking, wrestling, and evading strikes with a lot of head movement.
They’re also the most impacted muscles. Submissions targeting the head and neck are most common, either when attacking for the win or defensively to escape a vulnerable position.
The neck and upper back muscles are also vulnerable to impact when grappling and from strikes to the head causing whiplash.
Essentially, unless a UFC/MMA fighter has suffered a significant injury to the knee, for example, the neck and upper back are the most taxed and impacted muscles likely to be in pain and inflamed.
Fighters can continue fighting if they have an injured forearm or knee, but they only have one neck so they need it to be injury-free and able to move through its full range of motion.
The Bottom Line
So, ‘why do UFC fighters ice their neck and chest?’
UFC fighters ice the back of their neck and chest because it’s the fastest way to cool them down.
Cooling down helps UFC fighters control their breathing, avoid excessive sweating, maintain muscular endurance, and reduce anxiety, pain, and inflammation, all with the purpose of maintaining athletic performance in order to win the fight.