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 hip is a common source of injuries in MMA. This article covers preventing and recovering from various hip injuries.
The hip is a ball-and-socket joint that must remain stable while still permitting a wide range of motion. MMA places heavy demands on the hip joint through grappling, kicking, absorbing impact, and rapidly changing direction. Hip injuries can be painful, and prolonged recovery often keeps fighters out of competition for extended periods. However, preventive steps and proper rehabilitation helps most fighters fully heal and return to the cage.
The labrum is a ring of cartilage that lines and deepens the hip socket, providing additional stability. Twisting or direct impact can result in the labrum tearing away from the bone, causing pain, clicking, catching, and loss of smooth hip function. Surgery to reattach and stabilize torn labrums may be needed, especially if symptoms persist.
Mechanism: The labrum tears when the leg twists in the socket while bearing weight in an abnormal position. The neck of the femur pinches the cartilage.
Risk Factors: Sports requiring pivoting and cutting. Hip impingement anatomy. Previous hip injury or surgery.
Prevention: Strengthen hip and core muscles to stabilize and protect the joint dynamically. Avoid hyper-flexing the hip into vulnerable positions during grappling. Consider taping for support if a labral tear is suspected.
Treatment: Physical therapy focused on restoring strength and range of motion. Surgery if mechanical symptoms persist despite adequate conservative treatment. Use crutches as needed to avoid stressing the hip during recovery.
The hip adductor muscles on the inner thigh can be acutely torn or develop chronic tendonitis from overuse. This causes painful limitation of hip motion, especially leg extension. Healing of strains and tendonitis can be frustratingly prolonged.
Mechanism: Sudden contraction against resistance overstretches adductors. Chronic overuse leads to repetitive microtrauma.
Risk Factors: Sports requiring kicking or rapid changes of direction. Inadequate strength, flexibility, and proper recovery.
Prevention: Strengthen and improve the flexibility of the adductors. Allow proper rest and recovery between intense training sessions. Consider the use of compression shorts for support.
Treatment: Anti-inflammatories, massage, and physical therapy focused on flexibility, strengthening, and retraining proper biomechanics. Surgery only if a complete rupture of the tendon occurs.
Snapping sensation or sound from the hip often comes from an inflamed tendon catching over bony prominences in the hip or, less commonly, from a torn labrum. Rest, therapy, and cortisone injections may help resolve it. Surgery is a last resort if symptoms remain disabling.
Prevention: Maintain flexibility of muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues around the hip joint with stretching—controlled strengthening exercises for the hip, gluteal, and core musculature.
Treatment: Physical therapy focused on flexibility, muscle strengthening, and training the hip to move through problematic ranges of motion without snapping. Avoid motions that aggravate the snapping. Surgery only if all other measures fail.
Hamstring Strain and Avulsion
The hamstrings can be acutely pulled or strained from sprinting and kicking or develop chronic tendonitis from repetitive overuse. Complete rupture of the hamstring tendon off the sit bone requires surgical reattachment. Partial tears may improve with extensive conservative rehabilitation.
Mechanism: Sprinting overwhelms hamstring strength. Hyperextending when hamstrings are contracting can avulse tendon.
Risk Factors: Inflexibility, muscle imbalances and weakness, fatigue, previous injury.
Prevention: Properly warm-up and stretch hamstrings before explosive activity. Strengthen hamstrings eccentrically with exercises like Nordic curls to better tolerate high forces. Avoid hyper-extending the knee when hamstrings are actively contracting.
Treatment: Develop a progressive physical therapy program focused on regaining flexibility, strength, and function. Surgery is required for complete avulsion ruptures. Total rehabilitation time usually lasts around 3-6 months.
Returning From Hip Surgery
Rehab after hip arthroscopy focuses on:
- Maintaining mobility – Avoid adhesions or stiffness
- Progressive strengthening – Muscles support and protect the joint
- Sport-specific training – Prepare joint for demands of MMA
- Functional movement patterns – Optimize biomechanics
A gradual, stepwise progression based on the surgeon’s protocols is key. Attempting to accelerate rehab and return too soon risks flare-ups and re-injury. Being patient allows full healing.
Here at Apex MMA, we aim to help fighters keep their hips healthy and recover fully after hip injuries. Proper training, treatment, and rehabilitation facilitate getting back in the cage as strong as ever.