Chris G. Koutures, MD, FAAP Pediatric and sports medicine specialist

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Comprehensive blend of general pediatric and sport medicine care with an individualized approach that enhances the health and knowledge of patients and their families



Proud physician:
USA Volleyball Mens/Womens National Teams
CS Fullerton Intercollegiate Athletics
Chapman University Dance Department
Orange Lutheran High School

Co-Author of Acclaimed Textbook

Pediatric Sports Medicine: Essentials for Office Evaluation

Orange County Physician Of Excellence, 2015 and 2016


How Can Children Enjoy Safe Participation in Martial Arts?

What should families know about Martial Arts to maximize the benefits of this vigorous physical  activity that develops balance, strength and body control while best minimizing injury risk?



  • Be aware of the difference between non-contact and contact Martial Arts
    • Non-contact forms or movements are fairly safe and will give all the benefits of increased body control and strength that lead to development of overall athletic ability without greatly amplifying acute injury risk.
    • There is no doubt that incorporating contact, often known as sparring, definitely increases the injury risk, Free sparring is more risky than controlled sparring where an instructors oversees and potentially limits the overall amount of contact.
    • When selecting a studio and instructor, do not be hesitant to ask about how contact is included in the program.
    • May opt to delay introduction of contact until a child is more physically and emotionally ready with a greater grasp of basic skills and movements.
  • Grouping of children participating in all forms of of Martial Arts, and especially with contact disciplines, should take into account physical size, development, and experience
    • Decisions on pairing children for sparring are often a challenge and should not simple rely upon age or "belt color". While having children participate with peers a few years older or younger is generally discouraged due to significant physical or emotional differences, there may be situations where experience or overall aptitude may warrant matching kids who are at different ages, 
    • This is another area where discussions with instructors can be insightful and helpful
  • Soft protective helmets are often used, but do they provide sufficient protection for head injuries and/or concussions?
    • he current medical literature does not have evidence that soft protective helmets reduce the risk of concussion, head lacerations, and facial trauma. 
    • Do not rely on soft helmets to prevent concussion or think that one can engage in more risky activity simply because a soft helmet is being worn.
    • Improving defensive block maneuvers to protect the head may be helpful, but discouraging and ultimately eliminating direct  impacts  to the head (kicks, arm strikes, etc) are likely the only true ways to reduce concussion in the Martial Arts.
    • Rapid head thrusts to the floor (even a padded floor) should also be discouraged due to the risk of head or neck injuries
  • There is also insufficient evidence proving that other types of soft protective padding (arm, chest, foot) can prevent injuries.
  • Rules prohibiting contact or excessive force to certain areas (head, throat, stomach, groin) must be enforced
    • f a family elects to participate in contact forms of martial arts, appropriate instruction and rule enforcement has been shown to reduce to risk of more serious injuries.


Are there any other recommendations you have to increase safety and enjoyment of the Martial Arts?