I’ve just spent the last five days doing one of my Osteopathy residential weeks. It’s been damn good in parts, and dull in others. Even a healthy dose of PhD’s wired was hard pressed to keep me awake through six hours of clinical medicine on one day.
One of our lectures about spinal mechanics, though, got me thinking again about MMA and the problems that fighters tend to pick up.
How often do you hear someone say something like “I can train five times a week and don’t get injured, and then I wrecked my back just getting out of bed the other morning”? Or “I don’t know how it happened, I didn’t do anything to it in training, I just woke up one day and it had started hurting”? If you’ve been around the sport a while, you probably know someone this has happened to, and there’s a good chance you’ve said something similar yourself at some point.
The thing is, as I keep telling the fighters I work with, injuries don’t “just happen”. Most have been building up for months or years, and then something insignificant just pushes them over the edge and suddenly you’re in agony. Not wanting to be too gloomy about it, but there are a hell of a lot of MMA fighters out there walking around with ticking time bombs just waiting to go off. Often the very training that is supposed to be “conditioning” the body and making it stronger has the effect of storing up chronic long term problems that might appear years later, perhaps just as the fighter is hitting the peak of his career. At MMA shows, I see these fighters walking around. Just by looking at them, I know that if they don’t already have an injury in a particular place (often neck and/or shoulders) then they soon will have. So what could they do differently?
Wear and tear on the body is sometimes seen as an inevitable result of being a fighter. We know we’re going to end up shredding the cartilage in our knees, or giving ourselves arthritis when we’re older… but we try not to think about it because, well, it’s depressing.
It IS worth giving some thought to, though, because there are plenty of ways of minimising the damage. An intelligent, balanced approach to training, and catching potential problems early on before they develop into bigger ones can make a huge difference to the length of a fighter’s career, and his long term health. It’s with this in mind that I’ve been writing a series of articles for Fighters Only Magazine about the common postural imbalances that fighters tend to pick up as a result of training, and a few simple exercises and stretches to help combat each one.
Of course, this isn’t a substitute for getting individual advice from a professional, but my main aim is to raise awareness that MMA ”conditioning” should be about more than having great cardio and being able to lift large weights. Having a body that is balanced with the right amounts of mobility and stability at each joint will not only keep you in the game longer, but will also improve your performance.