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Importance of Physiotherapy Treatment For Amateur MMA Fighters

UFC. Bellator. Strikeforce. One Championships. Just a few of the mixed martial arts organizations that deliver matches between professional MMA fighters that features adrenaline-pumping takedowns and strikes and breathtaking finishes. At the end of a match, you’ll see their faces, bloodied and sore, walking out of the ring limping, or worse on a stretcher.

Injuries that amateur MMA fighters have to deal with are no different. Below are some of the most common injuries that are frequently encountered in this sport.

Injuries From Head to Toe

In a study that was done in 2015, it was found out that the most common area injured in MMA matches was the arm. If one can recall a fight between Frank Mir and Tim Sylvia in 2004 where the former manages to win the fight using an arm bar, where the latter gets his right arm hyperextended to the point of a fracture. 

The arm bar is a fundamental submission maneuver in Jiujitsu and wrestling. This can lead to strains, sprains, or worse, dislocations and fractures.

In MMA matches, winning is either done by submission, knockout, or technical decision. In order to win by knockout, the head is the common target for punches or kicks.

Impacts to the head can cause concussions, stress to the neck muscle and to the spine through forced hyperextension, hyperflexion or lateral flexion from the impact. One example is Georges St. Pierre’s kick to the head of Matt Hughes followed by a flurry of punches to win the match in 2006.

The hand and wrist are also commonly injured, as striking or punching makes use of these parts. The ligaments of the knees can be sprained or torn from takedowns or from leg sweeps. The shoulders are also injured from overuse from grappling or weight training or from dislocations from an MMA fight.

How Can Physiotherapy Address Such Injuries?

Cold and hot compresses have always been part of non-pharmacologic pain management and also lessens swelling. Cold therapy stimulates an anesthetic effect (called cold-induced neuropraxia), causing the signals in the pathway that transmit pain to slow down contributing to pain relief.

Heat therapy, on the other hand, promotes healing of injured tissues through vasodilation and lessens stiffness. This concept also applies in the use of warm water therapy, which also relaxes muscles, and eases and reduces load on swollen joints.

Massage therapy, although provides minimal pain relief, promotes relaxation and improves mood, addressing pain the psychological aspect.

Therapeutic ultrasound is one of the most widely used modalities in rehabilitation medicine, and addresses pain, muscle spasms and joint contractures through two of its effects; thermal effect by increasing the blood flow on the area concerned and by mechanical effect by hastening cellular metabolism.

Acupuncture, which has been around for more than 300 years employed by traditional Chinese medicine, is able to influence pain perceived through needle penetration deep into muscles altering the pathway that transmit pain.

Should You Work Through The Pain?

Mixed martial arts, like any other contact sport, whether during training or actual matches, pushes the human body’s limitations. Such activities may cause injuries which may come and go – some may actually persist.

In these occasions, pain management can be challenging while training. Ignoring these injuries may cause limitations in training or worse, alter one’s activities of daily living.

Pain serves as a signal for a person to act to prevent further or potential tissue damage. Whether one trains for competition or just as an enthusiast, pain and discomfort can be properly be addressed without the use of any oral medications.

What else do you think one can achieve in MMA with the help of physiotherapy?

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