Yet another injury has changed the face of a UFC title-fight and division. A partial MCL tear has sidelined another contender in his quest for UFC gold. Erik Koch was schedule to face Jose Aldo at UFC 153 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Unfortunately, Erik suffered a partial tear of his Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) in his knee and will be replaced by Frankie Edgar at UFC 153.. This is the same injury that knocked Dan Henderson out of his title fight with Jon Jones at UFC 151. If you missed the explanation of Dan Henderson’s injury on FightMedicine.net, here it is.
Erik spoke with FightMedicine.net about his injury, rehab, and insurance coverage.
FightMedicine.net: What injury did you suffer?
Erik Koch: It’s a partial tear of the MCL. It’s exactly what Dan Henderson had.
How did you get your injury?
I was training back in my home town, Cedar Rapids. I was here for a family reunion. I decided to get a little extra training in. We had a really hot, sweaty practice and I was grappling on a wrestling mat. I was trying to pass someone’s guard and my toes got caught on the wrestling mat and my knee ended up going in an awkward way. I heard a pop and immediately after my leg stiffened up. The only ligament damage I had before was years ago in me elbow. My knee got really, really stiff. I couldn’t really straighten it or move it. Then the pain came about 20 minutes later. My knee started swelling up and by the next morning it was immoveable.
Did you see an orthopedic surgeon?
Yeah, I went to Iowa City and they did the MRI and checked the report. Luckily I don’t need surgery, just four weeks of rehab
Were you given a hinged knee brace to wear? (The hinges on the knee brace provide side-to-side support, which in this case, is needed when the MCL is injured)
When I first went to the Emergency Room, I was given a knee immobilizer (A long brace which keeps the knee locked out straight in full extension). They gave me crutches for a couple of weeks.
So the timeline is that you will be cleared to return to training in 4 weeks?
Yeah, 4 weeks of rehab and I should be good. Honestly, the pain isn’t terrible. It’s painful, but it’s more that it’s very uneasy. I can’t really pivot or turn. It feels like it’s about to slip out of place. It feels more weak than anything.
Do you have access to Physical Therapists and formal physical therapy?
I am actually going to do my physical therapy here in my hometown. I am also going to look into PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma – a treatment where your own blood is spun in a machine until it separates into specific layers containing healing factors and is injected back into your injury. This will be a future fightmedicine.net article). I have heard it’s good for recovery and a lot of football players have had it done. I start my therapy on Thursday.
The PRP issue is a little controversial. The literature is divided. Some studies say it helps and other studies say there is no benefit. The biggest issue people have is that it costs a lot and may have no benefit. It’s often a question of whether your insurance will cover it.
It’s one of those things that it couldn’t hurt, I guess.
Does the UFC cover you under their insurance while you are on their roster (a relatively new development)?
In the fight game, people often don’t have insurance. Under the UFC, everything is covered. It’s included in my contract as accidental insurance. If I get hurt training, they cover it; the MRI; the rehab. If I do PRP, that’s covered. If they didn’t do this for me, I honestly don’t know if I would do it.
When was your fight scheduled for? How would this have affected your training camp?
The fight was scheduled for October 13th. Since we are six weeks out, I would only have had 2 weeks. This would have been the biggest fight of my life. I am a big featherweight. Just cutting the weight to get down would have been a mess. I am the type of guy that is willing to take the fight regardless, but I have a group of people behind me that try and look out for what’s best for me and want to see me at 100%, so it’s probably the smartest move. I also don’t want to damage anything further. It has probably been the worst week of my life thinking that I needed surgery. Just because I could feel the injury, I knew it wasn’t good. But when they told me that I didn’t need surgery, it was a load off my shoulders.
How does it work when you get an injury? Do you call up Dana White?
My management does all of that. I don’t talk to anyone directly. The only people I talk to are my coaches and my manager. They do their job and do what’s best for me.
You said that this was the fight of your life. You obviously don’t want to let it slip by. Has anyone told you that you could still get a title shot?
As of right now, I haven’t heard anything. Nobody has told me I am going to fight. It’s one of those things where I just want to fight. I have trained for Aldo for about 9 months and we ended up not scrapping. I am just going crazy! Training as hard as I am and not fighting in general is driving me nuts. I just want to get back in there.
Do you have a feeling between Frankie Edgar and Jose Also who will win?
I think Aldo will win. I think it’s a bad match-up for Frankie. I want to fight Aldo. I’ve trained for that guy so much it just feels like a waste if I don’t. I have done so much PR and stuff like that with him and we never got to fight. It’s one of those things I’ve wanted back in the WEC days, so I am pulling for him.
Have you noticed any differences between WEC and UFC as a fighter?
The only difference to me is the popularity. A lot of people knew the UFC but didn’t know about WEC. People are paying attention more and the fan base is getting bigger. The only big thing is the popularity that the UFC branding brings.
Do you think the merging is a good thing or do you worry that some of these weight classes will be lost in the shuffle?
I thought it was a great idea. WEC was only 3 weight classes so you might as well merge it with the UFC. For us fighters, its better. We make more money. We get our name out there. I think the lighter weights put on the more exciting fights, so I think the switch-over was a great idea.
Looking back on your injury, do you think there is anything you or other people can do to prevent these injuries from happening?
Until this year, I didn’t get hurt a whole lot. One thing may be overtraining – just not letting your body get enough rest. I am the type of guy that is a workhorse. I like to outwork my opponent and train more and know that I am training more. But that can be your downfall. You can work your body until its weak and then that when something slips. That’s when you hurt yourself. Honestly, I would just say smart training.
How do you find that fine line between not training enough and possible gassing during a fight versus not training enough?
Everybody is different. You just have to see how your body feels. If you are dead and can’t do anything and can’t push that extra mile, it might be better just to take that day off. That’s one of the things I’m guilty of. I always say I am going to take weekends off to recover for the next week, but I never do.
Erik has volunteered to keep fightmedicine.net and his fans updated with progress on his recovery as he goes through his rehab. We thank Erik and look forward to hearing more from him and wish him a speedy recovery!
For more from Fightmedicine.net on MCL Injuries, click here.
Jonathan Gelber, M.D. is licensed to practice medicine in the State of California
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