Book Review: Jonathan Gelber’s ‘The Ultimate Guide to Preventing and Treating MMA Injuries’

By Mike Sloan Jun 25, 2016
Curling up on a couch and diving headfirst into a terrific book was once a favorite pastime for most. While text messages, social media posts, pop-culture magazines and other instant-information hubs vie for attention in a world that seems to be moving at hyper-speed, there are still plenty of people who enjoy reading a book -- you know, those rectangular items with thin pieces of paper neatly glued and bound together.

The latest book to pass through my hands was a wonderfully easy-to-digest collection of insights that should intrigue anyone who follows the sport of mixed martial arts. However, “The Ultimate Guide to Preventing and Treating MMA Injuries” is directed primarily at fighters, their coaches and their handlers. That’s not to say it cannot be enjoyed by everyone else. Written by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jonathan Gelber, it checks in at just under 200 pages and is designed to aid fighters of all experience levels as their careers progress.

As the title suggests, “The Ultimate Guide” aims to help fighters properly recover from the various injuries that occur in MMA and, in some cases, assist in preventing injuries from even happening. It covers everything from concussions and torn knee ligaments to dislocations and proper weight cutting. Anyone who has trained in combat sports -- be it boxing, jiu-jitsu, judo or another discipline -- has suffered an injury along the way. Thus the need Gelber saw for his book.

Gelber went to great lengths to describe in exact detail what happens with each specific injury. Furthermore, he chronicles every centimeter of the body in question, helping the reader to better understand what the knee, shoulder and brain look like, how they operate and why they do what they do. Gelber outlines perfectly the feeling and sensations one feels when an injury occurs and then takes the reader into a step-by-step process on how to recover properly.

“The Ultimate Guide” is far from a black-and-white textbook on injuries and how to heal from them. Its most entertaining parts come in the form of current and former MMA fighters who give personal accounts of their injuries. Whether it is former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez chronicling a nasty shoulder injury or former Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight titleholder Carlos Newton explaining how he wound up with a broken face, the tales of pain are astonishing.

Gelber also loads his book with cautionary stories of fighters who made critical mistakes regarding their health. It warns against improper training and being too tough for one’s own good. Case in point: Karo Parisyan. Once one of MMA’s top welterweights, he suffered a leg injury that never properly healed and resulted in an addiction to painkillers. He was never the same.

At the conclusion of each chapter, there are dozens of photos of current UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic showing drills fighters should undertake, not only to rehab an injury but to strengthen the muscles and surrounding areas. A number of other professionals have lent their own experiences and advice in the book. Mark DellaGrotte, Pat Miletich, Frank Shamrock, Bas Rutten and Randy Couture all look back on what they and some of their training partners have endured. Legendary cutman Jacob “Stitch” Duran details how to treat lacerations and what steps can be taken to bolster the skin.

The Ultimate Guide to Preventing and Treating MMA Injuries” is a terrific read. Gelber did a fantastic job giving readers a crash course in human anatomy and what happens when various parts of the body become damaged. The bottom line: If you’re a young fighter starting out or an established combat sports veteran, the book provides a roadmap to avoiding mistakes that could have dire consequences.
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