An Overview on MMA Shoulder Injuries
Mixed martial arts, more commonly known as MMA, is a popular sporting event in the United States for both the athletes and viewers. The most well-known organization associated with MMA is the Ultimate Fighting Championship® (UFC). With more than 40 UFC fights each year, the top-ranked fighters in the world are able to compete against each other in front of millions of viewers. While MMA is an entertaining sport to watch, the athletes are prone to numerous injuries. MMA shoulder injuries are quite common and include shoulder dislocations, rotator cuff tears and pectoralis major tears. Dr. Mark Getelman is available to treat fighters in Van Nuys, Thousand Oaks and the Greater Los Angeles, California area if an MMA shoulder dislocation, pectoralis major tear or an MMA rotator cuff tear occurs.
MMA Shoulder Injuries in Fighters
The shoulder is considered the most mobile joint in the human body, and consequently it is susceptible to a wide number of injuries. Mixed martial arts athletes place the joint under enormous stress each time they enter the ring for practice or a fight. Specific moves commonly utilized during MMA fights that place stress on the shoulder include arms bars, an Americana and a Kimura. An MMA shoulder dislocation, rotator cuff tear or a pectoralis major tear most often occur from an awkward landing, forceful contraction or a submission hold. MMA fights place more stress on the shoulder joint compared to wrestling as the overall goal of MMA is to obtain submission, not control them on the ground like wrestling.
MMA Shoulder Dislocation Overview
Fighters involved in mixed martial arts are prone to MMA shoulder dislocations. A dislocated shoulder occurs when the ball (humerus head) and socket (glenoid) become displaced, most commonly from a traumatic blow to the joint or extreme rotation of the arm. Many shoulder dislocations are considered anterior, and cause fighters the inability to lift the arm or bring the arm across the front of the chest. When a dislocation occurs, an athlete may also experience a rotator cuff tear, particularly in fighters over the age of 35.
If an MMA shoulder dislocation occurs, prompt medical care must be sought. An orthopedic specialist will begin treatment by returning the joint to its normal position, known as reduction. Once the shoulder is reduced, the joint will be assessed to determine the proper treatment recommendations. A dislocated shoulder may be treated with a combination of ice, rest, immobilization in a sling and physical therapy for several weeks following the injury. Severe or recurrent injuries will often require surgery and the reconstruction for a dislocated shoulder is aimed at repairing the damaged labrum, capsule and ligaments with an arthroscopic, minimally invasive approach when appropriate. Recurrent injuries or those with significant bone loss may also require a Latarjet reconstruction with transfer of the coracoid process to reconstruct the bone injury and restore stability to the joint
MMA Rotator Cuff Tear Overview
The rotator cuff is an important structure found within the shoulder joint that is responsible for stabilizing the joint and providing overhead arm movement. Four muscle-tendon units compose the rotator cuff, and each unit is at risk of injury during mixed martial arts. An MMA rotator cuff tear may occur during an arm bar, Americana, Kimura or any other movement utilized to take an opponent to the ground. A tear is classified as either partial or complete. A partial tear occurs when the soft tissue becomes damaged but is not completely severed. A full-thickness tear, or complete tear, occurs when the soft tissue is torn off the bone completely.
An MMA rotator cuff tear may be treated with non-surgical measures if the tear is not too severe. In many patients, non-surgical measures such as rest, activity modification, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy and steroid injections relieve pain and improve function following a tear. Surgery, most commonly an arthroscopic approach, may be recommended when non-operative measures fail or in tears that are too severe.
MMA Pectoralis Major Tear Overview
A pectoralis major tear may occur when one fighter attempts to lift their opponent off the ground in order to take them down. The muscle is very powerful and is responsible for important shoulder motions and works as an adductor and internal rotator of the arm. It also provides forward flexion and backward extension.
Most athletes with a pectoralis major tear will require a surgical procedure to regain strength and eliminate any visible deformity. During a pectoralis major repair, Dr. Getelman will reattach the torn muscle and tendon to the humerus (upper arm bone) with strong sutures and anchors in order to regain shoulder function.
Have you experienced a shoulder dislocation, pectoralis major tear or a rotator cuff tear during MMA? Do you need advice on how to recover? Do you want more information on preventing MMA knee injuries? Leave a comment below!
I learned a lot with this article! I dislocated my shoulder in a grappling tournament as I was picked up and dropped directly onto my side and heard a small crunch in my shoulder as my shoulder was dislocated. I waited a month or so for physical therapy but once I started I began to feel stronger. After my physical therapy appointments were done completely I slacked on taking care of my shoulder and dislocated it again 6 months later in a pick up game of ice hockey I took a faceoff with my back hand and as my left shoulder made the quick movement forward and to the side it popped out. Since then I’ve taken better care of it and feel stronger. Hoping I can strengthen it better this time since I was slacking awhile before. I’d like to hopefully go without surgery and be able to have a cage fight at some point.
Strengthening the shoulder and rotator cuff help to provide support and improve dynamic stability for the shoulder joint.
That said, the crunch you heard is concerning for some bony injury. Bone injury can make subsequent dislocations more likely particularly if you choose to return to grappling and the awkward positions that the shoulder can be exposed to.
I would recommend a thorough evaluation with X-rays, an MRI or possible 3D CT scan for better evaluation of the shoulder.