Former UFC fighters Tito Ortiz and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson will make their return to MMA fighting inside the Bellator cage on November 2nd, when they square off at Bellator's first PPV event. Both fighters have been dealing with various injuries over the past year, including knee injuries.
Tito is a mere five months out from ACL reconstruction surgery on his right knee. By the time the November 2nd fight happens, it will be one week shy of six months since his surgery. This is a very fast return to competition after an ACL surgery. (For comparison, Cat Zingano also underwent ACL reconstruction in May. She will probably not return to the Octagon until early 2014.)
Tito has said that his body heals fast, and that he was back to "drilling again" 6 weeks after his surgery. I suspect that Tito had a cadaver allograft for the ACL reconstruction. Why? In the picture below, taken from Tito's May 10th Tweet (the day after his surgery), the long incision at the arrow appears to be too far toward the inside of his right knee to have been used to harvest part of the patella tendon as the ACL replacement.
As I have noted in previous posts, the presumed benefit of the cadaver allograft is a shortened recovery time, with less anterior knee pain when compared to the patella tendon autograft. Maybe this is why he feels his body is "healing fast." In reality, from a clinical standpoint, the healing of the cadaver graft proceeds at a slower pace than the patella tendon autograft. This process (referred to as ligamentization) involves a process of reestablishing blood flow to the ligament, and remodeling of the tissue structure of the ligament. One study notes that allografts lose more of their initial strength during remodeling than autografts, rendering the graft particularly vulnerable to failure, especially with a premature return to sport. Returning to high level training and sparring less than six months after ACL reconstruction definitely qualifies as a premature return to sport.
So what does this mean for a fighter trying to squeeze that last bit of juice out of the twilight of his career? If all goes well with the knee he may be good for another paycheck or two. But it is no stretch to believe that Ortiz may be setting himself up for another ACL injury by pressing for a fast return to action.
1. Muller, B, Bowman, KF, Bedi, A. ACL graft healing and biologics. Clin Sports Med 2013;32:93-109.
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