After completing a second hand surgery in September that looks set to render him out of the competition for the rest of the year, Juan Espino’s long anticipated MMA comeback after winning season 28 of The Ultimate Fighter will have to wait. In a translated statement before the surgery, Espino said that treatment to his hand could put him back at least another three months to start training, leaving him unable to fight for the rest of 2019.
With his last bout back in November 2018 when he scored a first-round submission win over Justin Frazier, just how hard will it be for ‘El Guapo’ to return to training after his injury? Getting back into the swing of things could prove tougher than he imagines, with a study from the University of Connecticut proving that a return from athletic injury can be a lengthy and difficult process. The Spanish sports experts at REVIEWBOX confirm this, and have all the best advice on how to return to training after a long break.
Take it slow
Even without sustaining any documented injuries, an MMA fighter’s body can suffer after getting in the octagon. Dr. Beau Hightower, director of sports medicine for the Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA team, says that a fight can be “really damaging to the body”, and likens it to being in several car wrecks. According to Hightower, MMA can cause an array of injuries, but fractured hands, forearms and toes are most common, as well as shoulder injuries. Individual fighters can handle their recoveries differently, and it’s important to gradually build up your strength and cardio to get back to the level you were at before. Slow and steady is the best option, as you’ll probably get burned out easily if you go all out the first few weeks you get back in the gym. If you’re in pain, your body is telling you that you’ve gone too far, and you could aggravate your injury or even cause further damage.
Keep up the momentum
That being said, returning from an injury can feel like you’re starting from scratch, but once you’re feeling good and you’re back into training, keep on going and don’t break the habit. Slotting back into your usual routine is easier if you don’t take long breaks between sessions, as you’ll only need to put in more effort to rebuild your old habit. You can still keep up the momentum when you’re recovering from injury without pushing yourself too far, too soon.
It may take a while before you’re the same MMA athlete you were before the injury, but just take it one day at a time. Doing nothing isn’t a great idea, so focus on active recovery. Ease yourself back in with a gentle walk, or swimming, as it takes a lot of pressure off injured tissue and sore muscles. Try and figure out what body parts you can safely work as you recover, and get stronger and leaner in those areas. If you’ve got a hand injury like Juan Espino, you can still concentrate on lower body exercises that don’t require you to use your wrist in the gym.