The sport is physical. Boxers bash up against each other. Their shins collide, elbows rake against the face, knees pierce into the body. It is the hurt game. So fighters must understand the implications of injuries. As they are inevitable.
Somsurat Rangkla understands your pain. The pro Muaythai fighter’s record took her through 12 pro bouts and multiple injuries, small and large. Rangkla came off an ACLA to fight again. Through overcoming the pain she’s learned how to help others.
Rangkla Enters The Ring
Breaks Vs Strains
Separating injuries into two major categories helps. There are injuries from contact and injuries to the muscles.
“The first is contact like broken bones, concussion, fractures, and then you've got soft tissue and muscle injuries like sprains, tears, dislocations, and strain to the hips and knees,” Rangkla said.
That’s The Breaks
Breaks happen. While not massively common in the sport some breaks happen more often than others. Perhaps the most frequent is a broken nose. A hook shaped or flattened nose is a tell tale sign of smelling life in the ring.
Rangkla experienced it when she was hit in the face.
“In the fight, to be honest, I didn't feel it. I just knew that my was nose bleeding. But luckyily because it broke straight the blood wasn't like pouring or anything. It was just like dripping,” Rangkla said.
After the fight the nose swelled up. Rangkla immediately started looking at surgery costs and potential trips to Thailand for a nose job. She iced it and then went to the doctors. The xray showed a straight break.
If the fracture breaks the nose a nasal reduction is done. The nose is rebroken to straighten it. Nasal reductions must be done within a few days of the bone breaking or the bone will begin to heal crooked. In this basic operation the doctor resets the nasal bones into alignment. It is done under general anesthesia.
Swelling beneath the eyes commonly happens with nose breaks. It is important for athletes not to blow their nose after a break. The blowing causes pressure to rise back into the sinuses which can cause Orbital Emphysema, or swelling in the orbital area. A broken nose takes roughly three weeks to heal.
Rangkla Broke Her Nose In This Bout With Tuna
Other common breaks occur to the arms. This happens frequently when kicks are not blocked properly. The power of a repeated blow will literally break the arm.
Snapped shin bones happen on occasion when athletes (usually not Muaythai) kick without proper conditioning and or set up for leg kicks.
Rangkla Blocks A Kick
A Strained Relationship With Muaythai
Strains and tears are more common in the sport than breaks. Generally they can be fixed with rest, recovering, and icing.
However there are some more serious injuries such as the acl (anterior cruciate ligament) tear. Directional changes while running, pivoting or landing cause the injury. Rangkla suffered from an acl tear while training. She was sparring and she was kicked behind the knee. She’s not the only one.
“I had almost 10 people that asked me about surgeon choices, the physio and rehab,” she said.
ACL injuries take 18 months to recover from. The ligament is replaced with a graft from the hamstring. The lower leg must be strong enough to create a successful graft. So Rangkla performed prehab. These exercises, before the surgery, created a stronger hamstring. This aided in the success of the operation. After the operation, the doctors immediately had Rangkla walking and working.
“They actually ask you to walk straight away. Like you can't stop. You've got to keep going,” Rangkla said. “You need to keep doing your rehab because otherwise your knee will never be the same.”
Every few months Rangkla would test her abilities. She would hit pads to check her stability and strength.
After six months Rangkla was able to do sport specific training. After a year she could do strength training to finalize the recovery process.
Lighter injuries include swelling and bruising. The shins after bouts will swell for a week, or possibly two.
“The shins hurt after the fight and so we ice straight away. I feel like if you put ice right after the fight and whole night it gets better. Ice bathes or going to the ocean next day really helps,” Rangkla said.
Icing is common for swelling and bruising. An endswell is used as an icing device. Cold metal pushes down on the bruised and swollen area. This recirculates the blood and reduces the swelling. It is painful for the boxer. An endswell is used in the fight. Other items such as cold spoons can be used to help reduce swelling.
Rangkla Delivers An Up Elbow
In the west athletes work jobs and train. This causes injuries to occur more frequently. Boxers aren’t able or don’t prioritize the primary prevention tool, rest.
Rangkla’s routine is simple. She emphasizes sleep.
“So during fight camp my first priority is sleeping. I'll make sure that I get at least eight hours. If I don't, then I'll try to take a nap, quick nap before training. So sleep is my number one,” Rangkla said.
In addition she takes supplements, follows a meal plan, and goes to a sauna on weekly basis. The hot and cold therapy prepares her for a new week.
Rangkla Teeps Her Opponent
Should You Fight Injured?
Even with the best of care athletes get injured. They must then evaluate whether they can continue or not. There are a variety of factors to consider when choosing to fight injured.
The first is the severity of the injury. How serious is it and how long will it take to heal? What weapons will it prevent the athlete from using? If it is injured in the fight will long term damage happen?
Medical supervision is always advised for understanding the severity of the injury. This happened to Rangkla. She was about to fight at Rebellion.
Rangkla was training as normal.
“I twisted my ankle and my it swolled up to like double size. Lucky, our teammate was an osteo, so he came straight away and did a test. He gave me a first aid. But he couldn't tell much because it was so swollen,” Rangkla said.
Rangkla heart began to break. The next day the ankle was swollen even bigger. A trip to the physotherpaist was in order. The doctor had her shadow box. It wasn’t a complete tear.
“You have to forget the pain,” the doctor said. “Because the’re no point going into the fight worried about the injury.”
The pain was bearable for Rangkla. But she had to change her game plan. The initial strategy was to kick her opponent. Her trainer Superboy told her to use her clinch and knee game.
“I was confident with the fight camp. We covered up all the weaknesses. I believed in myself so I just went for it,” Rangkla said.
She won her bout on points. She was able to push through the pain. It is not a choice that she suggestions.
“I don't recommend this to anyone. If you have injury, you shouldn't fight,” she said.
In This Bout Rangkla Fought With A Twisted Ankle
Making Informed Decisions In Muaythai
Fighting is risky business. Whether you win or lose you will be hurt. The goal for athletes is to make informed decisions about the risks they are willing to take. Understanding common injuries, rehab, prevention and choosing to go ahead or not, creates better decisions.
Being able to see the injuries coming helps athletes brace for them. Because it’s the punches that we don’t see coming that knock us out.