Martial Arts/MMA/Sports Injury Story Time – My Entire History (Part 1 of 3)


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Minutes after I ate the headbutt that bloodied my nose and knocked out my front teeth

In every sport there are certain injuries that participants face. Fortunately it doesn’t happen that often but if you put enough time into your sport you’re bound to be sidelined from practice/competition at one time or another due to injury.  Some injuries occur due to overtraining, others because of the high intensity of tough competition, and every once and an injury can be blamed simply on bad luck. I hate those ones!

It’s an accepted part of the playing the games we enjoy and putting our athletic limits to the test.

Martial arts is a very safe, extremely fun activity that allows its participants to benefit and grow in so many ways. I’ve spent my entire life training and truly still love it with a passion.

As a teenager I trained very hard and competed often; sometimes doing two different tournaments in one weekend. Once I became an adult my training intensified and at the peak of my career while fighting as a professional mixed martial artist in the UFC and many other shows, I was training 2-3 times per day, six days per week.

With that amount of training and an active competition schedule, I’ve experience a handful of different injuries during the last three decades of training.

Here’s my personal list, where I name and describe all of the ones that I am able to remember:

Nearly Complete Ankle Tear

This nasty injury put me out of commission for over a month. It happened during a University Wrestling Practice when I was going for a throw on a training partner that I had caught in a very tight body lock position. In the middle of my throwing motion my foot became stuck in the mat as the rest of my body kept on going forward. The popping sound that I heard originate from someplace down below was so loud that a bunch of people around me heard it too even though the training room was anything but quiet.

Strangely, I felt no pain!

I had a fight coming up, and was really feeling great on the mats that day, so I decided to keep on wrestling. Two minutes later, I began to feel a little bit of pain just above my foot but it was bearable. So once again, I kept on wrestling. Four minutes after that, between wrestling rounds I started to limp a bit; it was becoming more and more difficult put all of my weight on my left foot without feeling a very sharp pain shoot up my leg­.  Twenty minutes later, there I was, hopping on one foot across the vast university parking lot toward my van.

A month and a half later I was finally able to train again. However I did tap out extra quickly to foot locks for some time after getting back at it.

Cauliflower Ear

I really couldn’t tell you exactly when I got my first bit of cauliflower ear but I do remember being pretty damn proud of it.

I was teenager at the time and had heard a little bit about the injury beforehand from wrestlers that I knew and trained with. They told me that in some countries, where wrestling was the national sport, the lucky guys that had noticeable cauliflower ear got restaurant meals for free!

I was quick to find out that people here in Canada did not do the same thing and that a very high percentage of our doctors had never drained –which is a common treatment for the injury—a cauliflower ear that was filled up with fluid.

Luckily I have very small ears and the first few bouts of cauliflower ear were the only times that I had to deal with the painful injury.

Torn Ligament in Finger

After landing a full power cross, during boxing training, on the forehead of one of my sparring partners I had no idea that I had hurt my hand pretty badly. The damage was done to my right hand’s ring finger but it really didn’t hurt very much at first. It wasn’t until a few days later that my top knuckle on that finger became very swollen and bright red; I couldn’t punch a heavy bag, hand mitt or person without feeling sharp pain shoot through my hand.

The dark red colour of the knuckle area really had me worried that my finger had become infected. I probably should have got it checked out by a doctor but decided not to.  Instead I kept on training, adjusting things as best I could to avoid any pain but I had little success in doing so.

It took a long time before the pain totally subsided: At least two months. I’m sure it would have healed faster had I taken some time off training but that would have been way too depressing.

Eventually when all of the redness and swelling had disappeared I figured out what had happened. It turned out that I had snapped a ligament in my ring finger and to this day still cannot straighten that finger completely. It’s definitely one of my coolest injuries to show people.

Torn Sheath over Knee Cap

This was the most annoying injuries I ever sustained! It caused one of my kneecaps to have a spot on it that was brutally sensitive for over a year. Every time the spot touched the mats –which was everyday in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class—the pain was excruciating!

How’d it happen? Unfortunately, the story really is not that cool in comparison to how much the injury irritated me.

Erik Paulson, who I had trained with many times in the past, was in Mississauga at the time teaching a seminar at my striking coach Vito’s school (www.allcanadianmartialarts.com). I jumped into the training session and soon after beginning to trade leg kick with my drilling partner our knees collided. Normally that wouldn’t have been a problem at all but I guess it was my unlucky day. The pain was instant and severe.

After a month of adjusting my ground fighting style so that my left knee would rarely touch the mats, I decided to visit one of the best sports doctors in North America. His diagnosis of a torn sheath on my kneecap didn’t make me feel any better but I immediately began getting some treatment for it.

Six months later I had a lot less pain in my knee but I really hoped that I would never again experience a “Torn Sheath” in my knee! Reaching down with a hand as I write this –six years after the injury occurred– I can still press a spot on my knee and feel a lesser version of the same pain I felt way back then. I really hope you never tear your knee cap sheath. It sucks!

Torn Rib Cartilage

I think this is an injury that pretty much every serious grappler sustains at one time in their life. It really sucks!

Once the pain of torn rib cartilage sets it, it’s pretty much impossible to bend over, difficult and uncomfortable to stand up from a seated position, and painful to sneeze, laugh or breathe deeply. Obviously it’s also impossible to do any sort of athletic training other than the simple act of walking.

The strange thing is that it doesn’t take very much force to damage ribcage cartilage. Usually it happens during an awkward twist towards a resisting training partner that causes it.

I hurt mine doing a basic escape movement while preparing for a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament. My rib area was sore during the entire week leading up to the competition but I decided to compete regardless. That was a big mistake!

After winning my first match, I attempted to throw my second opponent –who was built like a tank—with a twisting type throw and instead ended up feeling my ribs ripping apart from one another. It friggin’ hurt! I pushed through it, fighting on and winning the match by points. After the match, the pain increased and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to fight the final match.  I did fight, using an adjusted game plan that avoided any movement that would cause me to scream out in agony.  I ended up winning that gold medal match by points.

Fighting on with torn cartilage definitely made my injury worse, but I had just come off winning gold at the BJJ Pan/American Games and didn’t want someone else to come out the victor so soon afterwards. The injury knocked me out of training for nearly two months and for the six months that followed my return I could still feel some pain in my side every time I’d hit a heavy bag with a hard left hook.

Oh yeah, it`s easy to tell which grapplers have had the same injury in the past because it leaves a very noticeable bump along the ribcage. I’m rubbing mine right now as I write this.



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