MMA Injury Update: The knee ligament edition

USA TODAY Sports

Knee injuries are probably the most common injuries suffered in MMA fighting. Here is an update on three UFC fighters who are on the road to recovery from serious knee injuries.

Ross Pearson

In early February, UFC lightweight fighter Ross Pearson underwent surgery to repair torn lateral collateral and medial collateral ligaments in his knee, as well as a torn meniscus. The injury resulted from a leg kick in training. On February 21, he tweeted that he was already cleared to begin running and adding weights to his squats. My initial impression was that his surgery was to repair the meniscus tear only. Usually, MCL and LCL tears are treated conservatively except in cases of severe tears. My impression was wrong. I asked about the surgery during his Twitter Q & A session from the O2 arena in London, site of tonight's UFC Fight Night 37 event.

Barely a month since his surgery, and he is already running. The next big step in his progression will likely be low level lateral mobility activities. The MCL and LCL are the primary stabilizers for the knee with medial (inside) and lateral (outside) stresses to the knee. It even appears that Ross has been penciled in for a UFC event in May, as reported by UK journalist Chamatkar Sandhu. Hopefully, he will be have no setbacks in his rehab and will be ready to compete.

Julianna Pena

Pena continues her rehab from a devastating injury to her right knee that occurred January 27, in which she tore her ACL, LCL, MCL and a meniscus. Yesterday she posted a picture of herself engaged in aquatic physical therapy.

Aquatic PT can be an important adjunct to rehab for lower extremity injuries. The buoyancy of the water allows for walking activity with a reduced load on the knee, which is important for Pena given the severe damage she suffered. This allows for recovery of normal gait technique, which in turn is critical to restoring quadriceps muscle strength in the early rehab phases. Additionally, and just as important, I believe there is a psychological benefit from water exercise. Julianna will be able to perform exercise such as walking (see the hashtag "#icanwalkagain" in her post?) and squatting with both feet equally weight bearing, yet with a reduced load on the injured knee, without the use of a crutch or other aide. Here is one of my posts on Cat Zingano which demonstrates how Julianna may progress her walking and squatting exercise on land once she is ready.

Speaking of Cat Zingano...

Cat had surgery May 28 to repair a torn ACL. (She had an Achilles' tendon cadaver graft for the repair.) In an interview with Inside MMA last Friday, she pointed toward a return to fighting sometime late this summer. She apparently has an appointment with her doctor March 10, and could possibly be released for full on training and fight prep, or as she puts it, "Good to spar, good to condition, good to do everything I need to fight at my top."

I have a particular interest in how Cat recovers and ultimately performs in the Octagon upon her return. I am not aware of any other MMA fighters who have had an Achilles' tendon cadaver graft to repair the ACL. Most of these type of repairs seem to use the cadaver patella tendon.

Here's wishing all three fighters have safe, injury-free returns to the cage.

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