At Apex MMA, our goal is to help minimize injuries and keep all our members and coaches safe. This involves ongoing education on injury prevention, recognition, and proper treatment. The knee is one of the most commonly injured joints in MMA. Knee injuries can require extensive surgery and recovery time. This article provides guidance on preventing knee injuries and making a full comeback after surgery.
The knees experience considerable stress during the varied demands of MMA. Shooting for takedowns, kicking, grappling, and suddenly changing direction can overload the joint. Knee injuries are painful and often knock out a fighter from competition for a prolonged period. However, proper prevention and rehabilitation allows most fighters to return to top form after knee surgery.
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the main stabilizers of the knee joint. It is often torn when the foot is planted while twisting or landing, especially during shoot takedowns. A “pop” may be felt at the time of injury and significant knee swelling follows. This typically requires reconstructive surgery.
Mechanism: The ACL prevents the tibia from moving forward off the femur. Twisting while grounded overstretches the ligament until the fibres tear.
Risk factors: Sports with sudden stops/pivots, higher injury risk in females, previous ACL tear on the opposite knee.
Prevention: Strengthen leg and hip muscles to stabilize the knee dynamically. Use the proper form on landings. Avoid getting leg grappled in awkward positions.
Treatment: See a doctor if instability is experienced. Follow rehab diligently with a physical therapist. Return to sports only after fully recovering strength and balance.
The menisci are crescent-shaped discs of cartilage cushioning the knee joint. Twisting injuries or direct impact often tear these shock-absorbing structures. Small tears may heal with rehab but large tears often require surgical trimming or repair.
Mechanism: Twisting can pinch the meniscus between the thigh and shin bones while impact drives it into the joint. Tears disrupt its ability to distribute force.
Risk factors: Forceful twisting, ageing, previous knee injury. Concurrent ACL tears.
Prevention: Keep the knee appropriately aligned during activity. Build leg strength. Wear braces if desired. Avoid severe twisting of the knee during grappling.
Treatment: Physical therapy to maintain range of motion after injury. Surgery if mechanical issues like locking or giving way occur. Strictly follow post-op rehab before returning.
MCL and LCL Sprains
The medial (MCL) and lateral (LCL) collateral ligaments stabilize the inner and outer aspects of the knee joint. They can be stretched or torn by impact from the knee’s side. MCL sprains are common with valgus (inward) forces.
Mechanism: A blow to the outer knee overstretches the MCL. The inner knee impacts stretch the LCL.
Risk factors: Contact sports, previous MCL injury, inadequate strength and flexibility.
Prevention: Strong surrounding leg muscles provide dynamic stability. Knee sleeves compress and support. Maintain proper knee alignment and footing during activity.
Treatment: Grade 1 and 2 MCL sprains may heal with bracing and rehab. Grade 3 MCL tears may need surgery. LCL injuries often accompany ACL tears.
Patellar and Quadriceps Strains
The quadriceps muscle becomes the patellar tendon below the kneecap. Repetitive overuse through kicking or other motions causes tendonitis inflammation. Sudden forceful contraction against resistance risks partial or complete tendon tears.
Mechanism: Overuse irritation versus sudden overload exceeding tendon strength.
Risk factors: Overtraining and fatigue, improper biomechanics, inadequate flexibility.
Prevention: Ensure proper knee alignment and tracking during activity. Maintain muscle flexibility and balance. Consistently warm up and stretch before training.
Treatment: Anti-inflammatories and physical therapy for tendonitis. Surgery may be required if a complete rupture occurs that is not healing with conservative treatment.
Recovering After Knee Surgery
Rehabilitation following knee surgery focuses on:
- Maintaining range of motion early to avoid permanent stiffness
- Progressive strengthening of the quadriceps, then hamstrings
- Neuromuscular training for balance and stability
- Sport-specific exercises before returning
The entire process typically takes around 6-12 months for ACL reconstruction, depending on the athlete and their goals. Trying to return too soon before fully rehabilitated risks re-injury.
A combination of willpower, expert care, and diligent rehab gives the fighter the greatest chance of making a complete comeback. But some permanent deficits may remain if rehabilitation is rushed or inadequate. Protect your body so you can have the longest career possible.
Here at Apex MMA, we want to help our team make strong recoveries after knee injuries. Proper training, prompt treatment, and diligent rehab give fighters the greatest chance of success.