UFC 160: Ryan Bader's MCL Injury

Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Promoted from the FanPosts by Nate Wilcox.

Ryan Bader was forced out of his fight with Glover Teixeira at UFC 160 due to a medial collateral ligament (MCL) knee injury. In March, his doctor advised that he avoid any activity (read- training, exercise, running, etc) for a 6-8 week time frame. He is targeting a return to action sometime this summer.

Dan Henderson suffered a tear of the MCL in 2012, prior to his scheduled fight at UFC 151. Jonathan Gelber, MD, posted a guest article on in August 2012 that gives some good details about the MCL. (Read Gelber's article- it's very good.) He also notes that most athletes that injure the MCL can return to their sport activity in about 4-6 weeks, which is roughly in line with Bader's time frame.

Unlike injuries involving the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), injuries to the MCL, including tears, are not typically treated with surgery. However, there is some controversy in the medical research literature regarding surgical repair of the most severe (grade III) injuries to the MCL. A grade III injury would include complete tear of the tendon ligament. Given that Bader has been advised to avoid activity for 6-8 weeks, I assume that he has a significant injury, with some tearing of the MCL that should heal with rest and a brief period of knee immobilization. The immobilization shouldn't last more than about two weeks, and then Bader will begin a period of controlled movement of the knee. Early movement within a couple of weeks of the injury has positive effects on healing of the ligament, and is usually a standard treatment for MCL tears.

Why is the MCL Important?

The MCL is located along the inside (medial) aspect of the knee joint. Because of its location, the MCL is the primary restraint against valgus stress of the knee. Valgus refers to buckling inward at the knee, shown in the picture below. (Comments about the pasty nature of the model's legs will be taken in good humor.)


More importantly for a fighter, the MCL is the primary restraint to this type of inward stress when the knee is slightly bent, approximately 20-25 degrees. Think about how much time a fighter spends in this position, with the knees slightly bent. This is a common leg position, whether executing an offensive attack or defending against an attack. For example, look at the first two pictures in this photo gallery from UFC on Fuel 9, posted on It shows knees flexed while kicking and punching. A kick to the outside of a flexed knee with a loose MCL could cause serious damage, possibly including rupture of the ACL as well.

In about 6 to 8 weeks, Ryan should be back to training. However, he will first need to work on restoring quadriceps and hamstring strength that will undoubtedly be lost during his time off. As long as his pain and knee swelling are controlled, this should not be a problem for him.

Please follow me on Twitter @mmainjury.

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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