Dr. Joseph Estwanik, M.D., was the ringside physician during the early years of the UFC. The orthopedic surgeon is the author of Sports Medicine for the Combat Arts, which means he knows all about compression locks and their medical implications.
What possible injuries are associated with compression locks?
Estwanik: When the muscle or tendon is forcibly pressed against the bone — as typically happens with these locks — if you don’t tap out from the extreme pain, various degrees of bruising will occur. Bruising is internal bleeding that can be seen by discoloration of the skin. Even though there is great pressure, the muscle or tendon will not normally sustain a complete tear or rupture from these types of locks; however, other more serious complications could occur if the injury is more substantial.
Collateral damage transferred to the adjacent or surrounding joints and bones is a great possibility. Using the Achilles lock, where the foot is often the lever to the lock, damage to the midfoot ligaments and bones could occur. While using the biceps slicer or leg slicer, the elbow, knee or surrounding bones could be damaged, including torn ligaments, dislocation or bone fractures.
What’s the recommended treatment for an injury that stems from a compression lock?
Estwanik: Treatment varies. For minor injuries, bruising will occur, so ice — never heat — should be applied to the bruise. Icing a bruise will limit bruising and help the body heal the injury. Anti-inflammatories like Motrin can be taken, as well.
For recovery from severe bruising, perform non-forceful progressive range-of-motion movements so stiffness does not occur. More serious injuries, such as to the joints or bones, should be examined by a physician. A competent physician familiar with the mechanisms of injury within the martial arts will look completely up and down the chain of the injury for other problems.
Injuries to the joints or bones may require surgery and could take many months to heal. Considering these possible outcomes to an injury from a compression lock, control and safety should definitely be kept in mind when applying these locks in training.
Andrew Zerling is on top in the northsouth position (1). He leap-frogs the torso of opponent Paul Berger and momentarily lands on his belly, possibly knocking the wind out of him (2). Zerling then moves into the reversemount position and wraps his right arm around the man’s right leg — which causes him to triangle his legs to prevent a kneebar
(3). Prepared for that defense, Zerling falls onto his left side and locks his legs around the opponent’s bent leg (4). Close-up: He applies the leg slicer by pulling and twisting his right wrist clockwise and lifting his hips (5). Although you can’t see it, Zerling is using the ball-andsocket grip and has oriented his forearm so the bone exerts maximum pressure on the squeezed muscles.