Mauricio “Shogun” Rua’s Knee Woes

I recently posted a Fanpost on Bloodyelbow.com, and on my MMA Injury blog in which I reviewed the knee surgeries that Dominick Cruz has endured recently.  Comments on that post were interesting, and more than one person expressed interest in finding out what has gone wrong with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua’s knee (or knees).  So, as a budding MMA Injury blogger, I immediately started digging and this is what I have for you!

First things first- when analyzing an MMA athlete’s knee injury, I always want to know which knee was injured, or are both knees involved.  This may seem terribly obvious, but finding information on which side of the body is injured is usually difficult.  However, I believe that Rua’s left knee is the culprit, based on the photo below, posted on MMAFrenzy.com.  There is also a photo posted on Bloodyelbow.com from 2011 showing Rua with an ice pack on his left knee.  (I am assuming that both of the photos are not reversed, in which case it would be Rua’s right knee that was injured.)

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photo via MMAfrenzy.com

A History of Injury

From what I can find, it appears that all of Shogun’s injuries involve the old lady of knee injuries, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee.  The chronological history of his injuries, and subsequent surgeries, is as follows:

  1. September 2007- Shogun fought Forrest Griffin at UFC 76, apparently with an already-damaged ACL. Following this fight, he goes under the knife for ACL reconstruction surgery in Brazil.
  2. His ACL surgery failed.  He re-injured the same knee (and I presume the same ACL ligament) sometime soon after the original ACL surgery.  A 2011 article attributes this to “rushing his rehab and re-injuring the knee.”  He is forced to have a second ACL surgery.
  3. January 2009- Rua returns to the Octagon at UFC 93 with a win against Mark Coleman.  This marks about 16 months between fights.
  4. April 2009- Rua beats Chuck Liddell at UFC 97.
  5. October 2009- Shogun loses to Lyoto Machida at UFC 104.
  6. May 2010- He earns a KO victory in a rematch with Machida at UFC 113.  It was revealed after the fight that Rua had once again injured his knee.  He undergoes surgery to repair the knee in June.

I am making an assumption that the third surgery again involved the ACL, but I cannot confirm this.  I base this assumption on the following.  Rua had a nine month layoff before his next fight against Jon Jones at UFC 128 in March of 2011.  That would be a little long for a less serious surgery, such as meniscus repair.  Furthermore, in a March 2011 interview with MMA Junkie Rua stated that he was released by his physician to train “100% around November” of 2010- five months following the surgery.  Again, if the surgery were for something less serious than an ACL reconstruction, he probably would have been training full speed much sooner.

I find the most interesting aspect of this long saga to be his rehab after the original ACL surgery.  There is some information out there indicating that he may have rushed or pushed his rehab too hard, leading to re-injury and the second surgery.  In my piece on Dominick Cruz’s knee surgeries, I note that his first surgery used a cadaver graft to replace the ACL, with the idea of a quicker recovery.  However, this type of graft may not heal as quickly (or “take” inside the knee) when compared to the traditional patella tendon graft.  There is the possibility that the athlete could push too hard during rehab, causing reinjury of the tendon graft.  I wonder if this was the case following Rua’s first surgery? 

In summary, it appears that Shogun’s knee problem revolves around the ACL.  This is probably the most common serious knee injury for MMA athletes.  Rua has had five fights since his last surgery, with a paltry 2-3 record. 

  1. mmainjury posted this
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