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Common Orthopedic Injuries for Mixed Martial Arts Athletes

mixed martial arts athletes in a ring
Combat spots like MMA have grown in popularity over the years, which has also meant a growth in related injuries.

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a demanding combat sport that combines various fighting styles, including striking, grappling, and wrestling. This dynamic nature of MMA makes it exciting but also exposes athletes to a unique set of orthopedic injuries. Understanding these common injuries and their treatment options is crucial for both fighters and their medical teams.

The Nature of MMA Injuries

MMA’s blend of striking and grappling exposes athletes to both acute (sudden) and chronic (overuse) injuries. Acute injuries often result from high-impact blows or sudden twists and turns, while chronic injuries develop over time due to repetitive stress.

Common Orthopedic Injuries in MMA

  1. Hand and Wrist Injuries:The hands and wrists are highly vulnerable in MMA. Fractures, sprains, dislocations, and tendon injuries are common, often resulting from punches, blocks, or grappling maneuvers. Treatment typically involves immobilization (e.g., splints or casts), pain management, and, in severe cases, surgery.
  2. Shoulder Injuries:The shoulder joint is complex and susceptible to injury in MMA due to its wide range of motion and exposure to impact and grappling forces. Rotator cuff tears, shoulder dislocations, and AC joint separations are frequently encountered. Treatment options range from physical therapy and rehabilitation to surgical repair.
  3. Elbow Injuries:Elbow injuries often arise from repetitive stress or trauma during strikes or takedowns. Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) and golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) are common overuse injuries, while fractures and dislocations can occur from acute trauma. Treatment usually involves rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE), physical therapy, and bracing.
  4. Knee Injuries:The knee joint is crucial for stability and mobility in MMA, making it prone to injury. ACL tears, MCL tears, meniscus tears, and patellar tendonitis are prevalent. Treatment varies depending on the severity, ranging from conservative management with physical therapy to surgical reconstruction.
  5. Ankle and Foot Injuries:Ankle sprains are among the most frequent injuries in MMA, often caused by sudden twists or awkward landings. Foot fractures can also occur. Treatment involves immobilization, rehabilitation, and, in some cases, surgery.
  6. Spine and Neck Injuries:The spine and neck are susceptible to injury during takedowns, throws, and submissions. Herniated discs, sprains, and strains are common. Treatment may include rest, physical therapy, pain management, and, in severe cases, surgical intervention.

Prevention and Treatment Strategies

a fist wrapped for mixed martial arts
Wrist injuries are common in MMA, which is why athletes should always know the proper way to wrap their hands.

Prevention is key in minimizing the risk of orthopedic injuries in MMA.

  • Proper Training:Proper technique, conditioning, and warm-up/cool-down routines are essential.
  • Protective Gear:Wearing appropriate protective gear, such as hand wraps, mouthguards, and headgear, can help reduce the impact of blows.
  • Rest and Recovery:Adequate rest and recovery time are crucial for preventing overuse injuries.
  • Early Intervention:Seeking prompt medical attention for any pain or discomfort can prevent minor injuries from becoming major issues.

Recommended Read: Reasons to Consult a Sports Medicine Specialist

The Importance of a Medical Team

MMA fighters should have a dedicated medical team, including orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, and athletic trainers, to provide comprehensive care and support throughout their training and competition.

Houston Physicians’ Hospital: Your Partner in Orthopedic Health

At Houston Physicians’ Hospital, we understand the unique physical demands of mixed martial arts. Our Sports Medicine team is equipped to handle a wide range of MMA injuries.

If you participate in any combat sports like MMA, either as a hobby or professionally, chances are you’ve already experienced an injury of some kind. If that’s the case, you can learn more about sports-related injuries by visiting our Sports Medicine Program page. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom to find a sports medicine physician who’s right for you.

Houston Physicians’ Hospital provides comprehensive innovative spine solutions and joint pain treatments near NASA TX and, including minimally invasive knee surgery, hip replacement surgery, and back surgery in Webster, TX. Our orthopedic specialists are dedicated to providing personalized care and utilizing the latest techniques to address your specific requirements.