Q&A Topic: Parents: Advice for MMA Beginners

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Victor Khabie, MD, FAAOS, FACS

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Q. How is working as a ringside doctor different than treating patients who come in with MMA injuries at the hospital?

A. In the ER, we can take time evaluating the patient—we can do X-rays, MRI, blood tests, etc., watch the patient over time and err on the side of caution. It’s a totally different environment working ringside. I have to make very quick decisions, usually within 30 seconds, between rounds. I have to assess the injury and decide whether the fighter can continue. The main thing we look for is signs of concussion or neurological injury. If someone tears a muscle in their shoulder, we can usually let the fight continue because there won’t be permanent damage, but concussions are a more serious matter. I have to know the fighters’ personalities and look for signs of changes—sadness, nervousness, sudden anger, headache, blurred vision, etc. Can he lift his left glove? If he can’t remember he’s in Madison Square Garden, that’s a sign of a problem. You always hate to stop the fight since sometimes millions are watching—but the fighter is my patient, and I have to protect him. It can be scary—certainly different than watching the fight on TV where you can relax and enjoy the action. When I’m there, I’m responsible for the fighters—I can’t take my eyes off them for a second.

Q. Are these combat sporting gyms safe for a beginner just getting into MMA?

A. Yes, if you learn to do it correctly. You should learn from and practice with someone who knows what he/she is doing—not just with a friend. For instance, if you punch someone the wrong way, you can break your hand. It’s called “boxer’s fracture,” which is a misnomer because it generally describes the way people commonly break their hands when they get into bar fights. People who know how to punch properly don’t get boxer’s fracture. You have to wrap the hands appropriately and know what you’re doing. Take the time to learn the technique and the nuances and practice.

Q. What are some of the most common injuries you see with new MMA fighters or boxers?

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A. We see everything: Shoulder injuries, rotator cuff tears, hand injuries, fractures, bruising of the legs, sprained ankles, knee injuries, the gamut.

Q. What advice can you give to people just getting started in boxing or MMA?

A. Expect to be really sore for the first few days. Start in the gym, and first learn how to keep your hands in the air. Keeping your hands above your head is tiresome, but it builds stamina. Start with shadow boxing, then the heavy bag or speedbag. Only then should you start sparring. Don’t just spar with a friend; spar with a pro who will let you hit them. Study the pros—how they turn their hips, how they punch from legs and hips and torso where they can generate torque. Be patient—it takes years of training to master it.

Learn More About Dr. Khabie
Co-Chief of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
Co-Director, Orthopedic and Spine Institute
Director, Sports Medicine Section
Chief, Department of Surgery
Northern Westchester Hospital

Northern Westchester Hospital is a proud member of Northwell Health.

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Read Past Topics from Dr. Khabie:
Robot-Assisted Partial Knee Replacement
Sports-Related Knee Injuries
Shoulder Pain — When to Seek Help

Treating Osteoarthritis without Surgery
Common Questions Regarding Knee Replacement 
Parents: Save Your Daughter from Injury Down the Line with a Joint-Friendly Fitness Plan

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