In an April 14 FanPost, I detailed Ryan Bader's medial collateral ligament (MCL) knee injury. In March, his doctor advised him to avoid any activity for a 6-8 week time frame. It appears that Bader has already returned to some light training, which suggests to me that he is a little ahead of schedule in his rehab. Earlier today, he Tweeted the following:
Hit 20 miles on the bike, knee felt good. Still a couple weeks before I can get on the ground, but been putting in some good boxing work.— Ryan Bader (@ryanbader) April 30, 2013
He notes that he has been boxing. This would likely include some lateral movement and cutting, which is a big rehab step when recovering from an MCL injury. Lateral movement places a valgus stress on the knee, which in turn directly stresses the MCL. (See my April 14th post for details on valgus stress.) He could possibly be using a brace on his knee for protection while boxing, but I believe that he probably is not. If his medical team believed that he still needed that degree of protection for the ligament, he probably would not be boxing at all.
It is apparent that his medical team is taking him through a controlled return to training, which is great to see. One of the principles of returning an athlete to competition is to take them through a progression of functional activities. Think of it like passing a series of tests. Bader has obviously passed the "test" of straight forward/backward movement such as bike riding and running. Then, he progressed to the test of boxing and the ensuing side-to-side movements, planting the leg, and controlled cutting. Based on his tweet, the next test will probably be progression to wrestling. With each test, the rehab team would be evaluating his knee for signs of swelling, increased pain, unusual avoidance of certain movements during activity, etc.
It appears very likely that Bader will be ready to return to the Octagon this summer.
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