Fight Doctor – Don't Blame AKA, Cormier Was a Set up for Another Injury

Fightland Blog

By Darragh O'Carroll MD

Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC

Rumors regarding American Kickboxing Academy’s flawed training methods have been simmering for quite some time, but now that Daniel Cormier has been forced to withdraw from UFC 206 due to yet another knee injury the simmering has been brought to a boil.

It’s not just Cormier. Terribly timed injuries to AKA fighters, like Cain Velasquez’ before UFC 196 and Luke Rockhold’s before UFN 101, have left fight fans deflated and understandably tired of the same “pull out” headline from the infamously hardnosed team.

However when it comes to Cormier, you can’t blame AKA. 

Cormier has been operating with a 50% Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear for quite some time, at least since 2014, and chances are it’s gotten worse. Of all the major joints of the body, the knee is the most dependent on ligaments for stability. The stability of other major joints, like the shoulder, depend on rotator cuff muscles, and the hip is a ball and socket joint that posses inherent boney stability. Of the four knee ligaments, the ACL is the most crucial and is responsible for stability during pivoting and lateral movements while the knee is bent. When the ACL is torn, the shin can be pulled forward akin to opening a drawer, changing tendon angles and risking cartilage tears. In fact, when the ACL is torn the Medical Collateral Ligament and Medial Meniscus are commonly torn with it, constituting the infamous “unhappy triad.”

Without a properly functioning ACL, and assuming it’s the same knee, it’s no surprise to hear that Daniel Cormier has gone down with another knee injury during camp. The large hamstring and quadriceps muscles attempt to compensate for the ACL, but during camp with increased training frequency and hours the muscles eventually fatigue, and the knee becomes exceptionally susceptible to injury.

Prior to this particular injury Cormier has opted to use stem cell injections into his knee to mitigate the ligamental damage with hopes of regrowing tissue—however at this point in medical history, without proper scaffolding, stem cells cannot completely regrow an ACL. Cormier was presented with a surgical option to repair his ACL when it was torn, but at 37 years of age, 10 months in rehab was too much time off. A tough decision when time is running out to cash in. No doubt he was aware of the risks of continuing without surgery, but opted for less invasive treatment.

It’s terrible news to hear when any fighter goes down to injury, and no doubt Cormier himself is extremely disappointed—but as long as he trains moderately hard for a fight, the risks are present. AKA probably did the best they could to lesson any chance of injury, but in Cormier's case, the cards were stacked against them.


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