Knee-Deep In Pain

One of the most common injuries to MMA athletes involves the knee joint. Whether it’s a fracture, sprain, or ligament or tendon tear, knee injuries can be devastating to mixed martial artists.


The knee area is composed of three main bones: the femur, the tibia, and the patella. The femur—or long bone of the thigh—rests on top of the tibial plateau (upper area of the shin bone). The patella (kneecap) is the small round bone on top of the joint that provides support to the joint. In conjunction with ligaments, tendons, the meniscus, and the bones mentioned, the knee joint is formed.


Due to the amount of weight and stress the knee is subjected to, multiple injuries are common, including:




The ACL—or anterior cruciate ligament—gives strength and support to the knee, especially in hyper extension. It also prevents backward slipping of the knee. ACL tears occur when the joint is hyper extended or pressure is applied in a lateral motion. This type of injury is also associated with patellar dislocations (the kneecap moves out of its groove of movement). The break can be partial or complete, of which both cases require an immediate physician evaluation and sometimes surgery, followed by months of physical rehabilitation.




The meniscus is the cartilage cushion between the femur and tibia. It prevents friction between both bones during movement. When a tear occurs, the meniscus can swell, causing pain and inflammation to the knee. Pain is more intense when weight is placed on the knee. Possible treatment for tears include arthroscopic procedures or open-knee surgery, depending on the extent of the lesion. Recovery can range from weeks to months.




A knee sprain can include any number of ligament injuries around the knee. This can cause pain, swelling, and limited movement, but no structure is broken. When diagnosed with a sprain, it’s always best to get specific information, including the particular ligament involved and the extent of the damage. Most sprains can be managed with cold therapy and rest.




• DON’T try to train through the pain of a knee injury. See a physician for any pain or swelling. A minor sprain or tear can improve with proper treatment, but, continual damage may result in surgery.


• DON’T over-train your knee joints when lifting weights. Use weights you can handle and maintain proper form.


• Leave your ego at the door and use the utmost caution when practicing knee-lock submissions. It’s always best to tap at the first sign of pain. Remember, it’s only practice.

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