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Rehabilitation of the cervical spine in
professional MMA fighter

First visit and examination of the cervical spine

The coach of the professional MMA fighter Ilija Brkan contacted us via Instagram because of a cervical spine injury that has been bothering his fighter for a long time and which he could not solve with several different medical experts. 

During the first visit of an MMA fighter to our clinic, we established that the injury of the cervical spine occurred during wrestling and during frequent pulls of the head and cervical spine, and falls on the head during training. 

Symptoms that bothered the fighter: 

  • neck pain during wrestling training
  • reduced mobility of the cervical spine
  • stiff neck throughout the day
  • tingling in hands during sports activities (cervicobrachial syndrome)
These symptoms limited the fighter to such an extent that he could not do the training in full force and was not ready in this condition for professional fights. 

According to all the above symptoms, we concluded that Ilija has inflammation and compression of the nerves of the brachial plexus that begin in the cervical spine and extend along the arm that they innervate and move. 
MMA fighter Ilija Brkan
dry needling treatment of cervicobrachial syndrome

Physical therapy and rehabilitation plan

After the examination, we decided, in cooperation with the fighter and the coach, to draw up a plan and program for physical therapy and rehabilitation. Considering that Ilija is a professional athlete, our priority was to quickly and effectively solve all problems related to the cervical spine in order to return to the system of training and combat as soon as possible. 

Regardless of the urgency of Ilija and his coaches to return to the training process and fights, our goal was to make rehabilitation as effective and long-term as possible. For professional athletes, it is very difficult to find the ideal environment in order to get quick and effective rehabilitation and recovery. Through the experience of working with top athletes, we have succeeded in that and put together a program that suits fighter and his coaches. 

The goals of physical therapy and rehabilitation were: 

  • reduce the pain in the neck that occurs during training to a minimum level and ultimately eliminate it
  • restore normal mobility of the cervical spine to avoid further injuries
  • completely eliminate neck and cervical spine stiffness
  • reduce and remove tingling and other hand deficits during wrestling and other MMA training segments 

Physical therapy and rehabilitation of the cervical spine

According to the exact plan and program of rehabilitation, we decided to start therapy immediately after the first examination in order to solve the problem as soon as possible and return him to training and fighting. 

Physical therapies and special procedures we used: 

  • dry needling - with dry needling therapy our goal was to reduce the muscle tension of the neck muscles and consequently reduce the compression on the nerves of the brachial plexus
  • manipulations (chiropractic) - using manipulations of the cervical spine and Y-strap decompression strap, we restored the range of movements of the cervical spine and completely removed the stiffness in the neck
  • cupping - we used to increase the flow of blood circulation and further relax the muscles of the whole back
  • mobility and strength exercises - we gave the athlete instructions on how exactly he should return to training or what exercises he should do through rehabilitation and at the beginning of the standard training process
Through 5 treatments, i.e. 20 days, we removed the pain from Ilija and returned the full range of movement to the cervical spine. In cooperation with Ilija's coach, we decided on a gradual introduction into the training process and a gradual load on the cervical spine. The fighter was also given instructions on how to behave during training so that the aforementioned problem would not come back to him.

After the whole process, Ilija has agreed to official cooperation with Ad Sacrum clinic and we have been following him for a long time through all the preparations and fights. 

MMM fighter Ilija Brkan
Picture of Bsc. PT. Toni Marić

Bsc. PT. Toni Marić

Toni is bacc. physical therapist and the owner of the Ad Sacrum clinic who has been treating top athletes for years and also teaches at the Dry needling courses for physiotherapists.

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5 things to do before visiting a physical therapist (Croatian language)

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5 things to do before visiting a physical therapist (Croatian language)

Find out what you need to do before a first visit to a physical therapist. Carrying out these steps will enable you to have more successful and faster rehabilitation process!

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