Injuries are inevitable in sports. In fact, when it comes to the FTE (full-time equivalent) measurements, athletes are the most injured of all professions out there. While professions perceived as dangerous (like construction workers) have between 200 and 300 injured per 10,000 FTE, the number of injured athletes is as high as 1,500 per 10,000 FTE at any given moment.
Now, while this is true in sports, in general, it goes double for combat sports. Here, the opponent is not just likely to hurt you, but this is their intention from the very start. In cage fights, like in MMA, things are especially brutal. The only two known ways to avoid an injury are to either win quickly or condition your body so that it can withstand a high amount of pressure. With that in mind and without further ado, here’s how to strengthen your legs to avoid injuries in a cage fight.
Work on Your Leg Muscles
The first thing you need to do is strengthen your leg muscles in order to boost their endurance. Now, remember, your legs consist of more than just muscles, and there are no ways to strengthen your joints, tendons, and ligaments. If anything, whenever you hear of an injury, 7/10 times, it won’t be the muscle but a bone rupture, ligament tear, etc. Unfortunately, these other parts of your leg you can’t do much about, but you can definitely protect your muscles even further.
Leg workouts might impact the density of your bone tissue. Those who don’t believe this only need to take a look at what the medieval archer’s remains look like after a lifetime of firing bows. The bones on their right arm (drawing arm) are significantly thicker than those on the left one. This alone indicates that use and physical activity helps bone density, as well.
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Unless your shins are properly conditioned, you’re going to injure yourself while striking. The only way to condition your shins is to kick often and use the right technique. The longer you do this, the stronger your strikes will become, but, most importantly, the stronger your shins will be. While a technique can be quite impactful here, you can’t skip ahead of the line. The only known way to get the conditioning that you need is to spend months and years kicking the heavy bag and pads.
Also, you need to be very careful when kicking. If they check your kick in a particularly nasty way, you stand to cause more damage to yourself. Moreover, a missed kick with full force is a terrible thing. It can cause a dislocation in an instance. For this very reason, it’s important to choose your kicks carefully. It’s also incredibly important that you learn how to feint.
Learn How to Check Kicks
Learning how to check kicks is, arguably, the most impactful in your ability to avoid leg injuries in a cage fight. Checking a kick means redirecting the blow to the area that’s better suited to withstand the kick. It still hurts, but it doesn’t injure you, and it hurts the attacker more than the defender. In fact, there are a lot of examples where MMA fighters got their legs broken after a successful check. As such, it’s arguably the most important technique in all sports where there’s kicking involved.
The two places where you can check a kick are the knee and the shin. According to experts behind a renowned sports focus podiatry, you need to keep in mind that this comes with a risk of its own. After all, checking means redirecting to an area that can withstand the blow more easily, but this doesn’t mean that it can absorb it 100%. The chance of an injury is still there, but in a combat sport, a risk of an injury is present in anything you do. Now, while there are tips on how to improve your technique, you should focus on what your trainer is telling you and work towards adopting these techniques.
Focus on Your Footwork
The next thing you need to think about is your footwork. A misstep is just as likely to cause you an injury as a kick. This is the most important thing, in general. Regardless of the combat sport in question, the first thing that the trainer will teach you when you first enter the gym is where and how to stand (your stance). Only after this they’ll teach you how to actually strike. This alone should be more than enough to show just how important stance actually is.
Keep in mind that the majority of these exercises also work your calves. After all, in the majority of sports, there’s a lot of hopping around involved (especially in classical boxing). Lastly, movement around the ring allows you to keep the distance between yourself and your opponent. This means that, whenever you want to rest, you can move out of their striking range. It also helps you figure out if you’re within the striking range, which will keep you on alert and ready to check strikes.
In the end, avoiding a leg injury in a cage fight comes down to three things:
- Conditioning your legs to withstand a kick.
- Learning the proper technique for checking kicks.
- Properly accessing the risks of every kick (both opponents and your own).
While some would add luck to this equation, the truth is that this is completely out of your hand. So, there’s a lot of work for you to do and you better get prepared for your next cage match. Another piece of advice that I could give cage fighters is that they should invest in a good health insurance because this sport is filled with risks and dangers in every corner, and it’s smart to be prepared.
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