Who’s Got Arlovski’s Back?
Repost from – The MMA Digest
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Ever wonder who some of the people on the long list of fighters thank-yous after their fights are?
Some of the trainers you will know but there are many other people that help out in getting fighters in tip top shape for their fights that you never really get a glimpse of. After Andrei Arlovski finished off Justin Eilers at UFC 53 you heard him thank all his trainers and supporters, but also Dr. James Stoxen DC, his chiropractor out of Chicago. A man he’s been working with for over 6 years.
The sport of mixed martial arts is so highly competitive that the advantage of having a chiropractor to get your frame in peak condition is a great asset. Arlovski was fortunate to hook up with Stoxen when he first arrived on the North American scene.
“Andrei was assigned to me by his manager when he first here to the United States from Belarus”, explains Stoxen.
“They gave me one simple assignment. Do what it takes to make him a UFC World Champion.
Is that all?
“He had done real well in the Sambo world championships and we were really impressed with him because he had tremendous genetics and he had a great work ethic.”
Arlovski’s receptiveness to absorbing the knowledge of Stoxen has been a key to his success. “He did everything we told him to do, which is something that you’re looking for to try to mold an athlete into a world champion”, explains Stoxen. “He came to us very young and he was moldable, if they get a little cocky then they don’t learn and they don’t absorb and when you’re stubborn you always lose.”
Such praise from Stoxen is nothing to take lightly as he is approaching 20 years in the Chiropractic field and has worked with some top names in athletics as well as performing arts.
Early in his career in the mid ‘80s, Stoxen worked six years with world champion powerlifter, Ed Coan, pound for pound strongest man in world at the time and 1986 Stoxen became the medical director of the American Powerlifting Federation.
Stoxen has worked with top notch boxers out of Chicago such as Fernando Hernandez, David Diaz, Rudy Cisneros, Rocky Martinez, Al “Speedy” Gonzales, Miguel “Macho” Hernandez and cares for and is seen as cornerman for UFC fights with MMA veteran Shonie Carter. In a year his office sees an average of about 150 to 200 pro athletes, Broadway performers and top recording artists. He is the chiropractor for many top entertainers when they are in Chicago; as well as Broadway performers from productions such as Hairspray and Wicked.
When it came to working with Arlovski, the first thing that Stoxen decided to do with him was conduct an overall evaluation to determine what his biomechanics were and where his weak points were.
“At that time we found out that his arches had become stiff, even though he has very powerful legs”, states Stoxen. “Andrei and Leo, the manager, would come in 3 days a week and we’d work on him for an hour and a half a day, just going through him meticulously by hand removing every spasm, every joint restriction, setting up a nice solid, plyometrically sound, springing, elastic, foundation for the future” explains Stoxen.
For Andrei to become a world champion, it was key in Stoxen’s eyes to make sure that injuries would not be an issue; so a preventative plan was his aim.
“Guys who are looking to make it to any position in any sport in the world, they have to do the preventative and plan for the future”, comments Stoxen. Using that premise, Stoxen worked to realign Arlovski’s entire frame, and put him on a training program that had rehabilitation-like training exercises like rotator cuff training included so that he would be able to endure all of the punishment that he was going to take in the sport.
No matter how much prevention, strength and conditioning you prescribe there are injuries. There are always problems that arise from training at the hard level that elite mixed martial artists like Arlovski train at.
When it comes to the last month of training it is an intense time where injuries can crop up. With precious moments of training time ticking, and injury cannot be handled with an adjustment and therapy. We cannot wait until the injury occurs then evaluate the area of complaint. Nothing is standard about an athlete like Andrei Arlovski and neither should be his care. Treatments are done to improve performance and reduce risk of injuries, not for the treatment of a condition.
If your athlete goes down with an injury you don’t think, you think and you do a lot and fast, and when you treat its not a typical office visit which puts an athlete back in the ring a week or so before a fight with a frozen shoulder.
(Stoxen is known in the circles for packing in 8 or 9 hours of soft tissue work in a day on one patient. Standard soft tissue treatments normally don’t extend beyond an hour so with 8 – 20 hours of soft tissue treatment in 2 days you can see this is pretty intense.) The patient gets treated until we see no further improvement or if one or the other is too exhausted to go on.
Oftentimes a deadline is requiring a fighter to be 98% recovered by a certain day or the fight will be called off. In this arena it could mean a career and millions of dollars in losses for athletes, managers, promoters, agents, sponsors, fans and television through Pay Per View buys.
Dr. Stoxen gives us some insight on some of the trials that occurred leading up to all Arlovski’s fights commencing from his battle with Ian Freeman.
Leading up to the fight with Ian Freeman at UFC 40 in November 2002
“2 week before the fight with Ian Freeman, Andrei had a super painful and stiff right shoulder. His dominant hand is the right at that time so this was not good. So, I went to his apartment at like 10 o’clock and did deep tissue 3 hours straight until 1 o’clock in the morning then came back the next night and did it again for 3 hours. That’s 6 hours of deep tissue in 26 hours.
Some doctors and therapists would say that is overkill but maybe they should look at the result. The result is never the visits but it’s the result based on whether the patient continues to improve. If you want the pain and stiffness to subside you have to work out the spasms to allow a joint to move with a less restricted movement.
These protective reflexes are stored in the brain. I have found clinically, that the speed of recovery is related to the work performed within the pattern of spasm to shut off the reflexes allowing the joint to move fluidly with power, speed and endurance. This is done with muscle spindle work.
The result was a viscous knockout of Freeman with that shoulder supplying the power punch. Amen!
Leading up to the fight with Vladimir Matyushenko at UFC 44 in September 2003
“His hand was fractured during the Freeman KO and healed in the same position it was fractured in. It was at a 30 degree angle! I was not in charge of that but that is what I was dealt.
There was no time to have the bone re-broke and reset as fights were on contract and his career was moving too fast to take a break. I elected to have him fight with the hand the way it was until a break came to get the surgery necessary. So the bone wasn’t set right and was like at around a 30 degree angle so his hand. It kind of had an odd shape to it.
I told him to let it heal for nine to ten weeks and told him not to spar.
That was a waste of time because 6 weeks after the fight he sparred and hit a guy in the forehead and the bone fractured on his cranium and the hand got swollen again. What can I say the guy had a hard head. (no he did not knock the man out)
Why do people always as me that?
So we had to back off and supplement him with minerals and Vitamin D to do everything we can to speed up the healing time and of course I did treatments.
“The hand healed up just enough and just in time for the fight.”
He knocked out Matyushenko with that hand the way it was with no break in his career so the decisions we made paid off again.
Leading up to the fight with “Cabbage” at UFC 47 in April 2004
“Andrei’s left hook and overhand left punch wasn’t as an effective knock out punch because he had all these old injuries in his left shoulder and elbow area that had not healed with ideal mechanics.
I did deep tissue techniques every other day for an hour only on that shoulder, for about 3 weeks to reduce the restriction the best as I could.
We added the rotator cuff training to build the power and speed into his left side.
He didn’t think going through the time and the pain of the deep tissue work was worth it but I kept explaining to him that he would have two weapons instead of one. I told him that that is not going to carry him for his career very long if opponents realize he only has one weapon. I told him to practice throw the left in sparring and the coordination and speed will come naturally.
When the fight came I told him to throw it as much in the fight in the beginning to throw the opponent off because Cabbage would be thinking that the right is the only power punch.
At the team meeting in the hotel room the day of the fight we watched Cabbages head get hit hard time after time by Silvia and commentators saying that he thinks he has concrete in there and the team questioned the stand-up as a way to beat him.
At the end of the meeting I walked up to Andrei and said if you hit him hard enough he will go down because you have the power. That is the coach talking and not the doctor. Athletes even at that level need confidence boosters because they are fighting someone at their level or better so there is uncertainty and that can lead to insecurity. Hard to believe but believe me its not fun staring at an opponent who looks meaner, more ripped and hungrier than you for a KO.
Cabbage got hit by both lefts and rights.” I feel it was the barrage of lefts and rights by the ropes that confused Cabbage enough for Andrei to land that final right.
The result was a knockout that no one thought could happen.
We were one fight away from the goal set in 2002.
Leading up to the fight with Tim Sylvia at UFC 51 in February 2005
Tim Sylvia was injured as well as Frank Mir so that was the break in time that we needed to get the right hand repaired. “Andrei actually went to Russia to get the surgery and got the donor bone put in during that time.
There was no general anesthesia used but they did use local anesthesia so Andrei could see the inside of his bone “like a scary movie” he said.
There was to be some rehab and healing time because it was a pretty major operation for the striking hand—you have to open up the hand and put a piece of someone else’s bone in there.
People keep asking me where they got the bone. I don’t know and I did not ask who volunteered or where they got the bone. The surgery was done somewhere in Russia.
It had to be replaced and realigned. Is I mentioned, the bone was at around a 30 degree angle where it was broke, so if he hit somebody, because it wasn’t straight he had a greater chance of fracturing it in a fight. If you break your hand in a title fight it hurts like hell so its hard to fake you got hurt. So, when the opponent knows you have a broken hand (weapon) you are like a sitting duck in a shooting gallery. You cannot take any chances.
At the same time it had a lot of callous formation that made it more rigid. We figured he was hitting so hard that he would have fractured it again the way it was.
The operation was done so well that he was sparring about 5 weeks before his fight with Sylvia.
The result was the hit that floored Silvia setting up the leg lock and the world title was finally Andrei’s!
The goal was achieved!
Leading up to the fight with Justin at UFC 53 in June 2005
“I did nothing before the Eilers fight. He needed hardly any care whatsoever.
I attribute that to the excellent technical training in Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling training with Dino Costeas at Pow Gym and his boxing training with veteran trainer, Mike Garcia at Jabb Gym whom worked on his technique as well.
The result was a bone breaking, TKO. No comment .
Leading up to the fight with Buentello at UFC 55 in October 2005
“I did just a little bit of work on his shoulder, but I can’t really remember anything substantial.”
That is because the rehab and strength training was working so well. The result was a knockout in 15 seconds.
Costeas and Garcia had Arlovski performing with technical perfection which makes my job easier.
Leading up to the fight with Tim Sylvia (Part 2) at UFC 59 in April 2005
About 5 weeks before the fight with Sylvia, Arlovski’s shoulder became very painful. “The problem was that he was in the middle of his peak training and about 4 and a half weeks left, so to take him out of his training would be devastating”, explain Stoxen.
“His timing wouldn’t be right and his body fat would go up and energy level down.” Arlovski would do approximately 25 round of various different types of boxing with Mike Garcia at Jabb Gym, plus more than a half hour of Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling training with Dino Costeas at Pow Gym in Chicago and then come to see me.
It was like a fight between the injury he had, the wear and tear he was getting in training every day and the 1 to 2 hour grueling treatments to reverse and heal what had been done.
“I knew 2 to 2 and half hours of work on his shoulder was needed, because you don’t have 10-12 visits to correct it like a regular patient”, explains Stoxen.
“So you put like 4 or 5 visits on one night. Like I said the amount of work you do one a particular joint structure with deep tissue work and adjustments; Clinically I have found it is correlated to the amount of gain or improvement that you’re going to get on your shoulder.”
That kind of treatment is something your doctor or therapist will have to understand if you don’t want a big break in your training or get injured within 2 weeks of a major fight or you will be out of the fight.
Many feel that after a treatment the athlete needs to rest a day inbetween.
Maybe the therapist needs rest but the athlete needs treatment!
I don’t know of any peer review studies where it says its better to rest 48 hours between deep tissue treatments. I know the advantage of resting between training sessions but this has a different effect on the tissue.
Treatment and strength training of an athlete’s foundation, the arches of the foot, is an important key to ensure that a fighter is going to come into competition in peak condition for a fight. It’s a subject Stoxen is asked to speak on at international medical conventions all over the world.
“Many athletes will wear flip-flops and when they’re on the mats and they’re barefoot there are things that happen to the foot and the arch is a very delicate structure”, explains Stoxen. “The proper balance of pronation and supination, or rolling inward and outward, during running is a very delicate balance where you have to the foot in perfect balance with the rest of the frame; if it isn’t, like with if there’s over-pronation, too much inward rolling of the foot, you can actually create some pretty nasty spasms which will weaken the legs and leave the athlete at risk for injury.”
Additionally if a fighter does not wear a good shoe that has motion control properties that actually hold your heel on centre, there can be some detrimental effects “Their legs can go off centre and this whole spastic reactor will occur and mid arch of the foot will lock up and won’t allow the foot to properly bend at that level, forcing the athlete to kind of run like a duck or with a shortened stride because they can’t push off properly,” Stoxen comments.
The legs get weaker and weaker till then achy pain and can increase the risk for injury.
Stoxen did notice a little bit of locking in a couple of joints in Arlovski’s feet and spasm starting to flare up around 3 and a half weeks before the Sylvia fight. Taking preventative measures, Stoxen started working on Arlovski’s legs removing the spasm and restrictions from Andrei’s frame.
Not understanding the scientific process, Arlovski stated ‘James, what are you doing, why are you working on my legs? I have no pain!’”, explains Stoxen. “If you are an astute doctor with an understanding of complex sports biomechanics, you can spot subtle abnormal changes in the joints motion, and intervene with corrective care before the pain even surfaces.
This is sports medicine and the musculoskeletal answer to anti-aging medicine.
”After the treatment of the legs that had no pain, Arlovski had a change of heart. “The next day he came into the office I remember he said ‘Today I ran six miles and it was very fast’, and he said ‘Will you do that to me again?’”,
Stoxen says “I love when that happens.’
The injury leading up to the fight with Tim Sylvia (Part 2) at UFC 59 in April 2005
“Two weeks before the fight on a Sunday he was in Jiu-Jitsu training and somebody wrapped their leg around his neck and he heard a couple of bones pop in his neck.
Monday morning 2 weeks before the fight he was in so much pain that he didn’t sleep all night not being about to move his neck.
I got these calls, “Can you have him 98% by Thursday?”
Talk about pressure!
I kept telling them no problem.
Who really knew.
To be honest with you I had no idea if it would turn around that fast but we worked like hell and pulled out all the tricks to make it happen.
I did specific neuromuscular reeducation a form of deep tissue on his neck for 4 solid hours in the morning and 4 hours at night.
Tuesday there was not much improvement in pain but the range of motion was better.
I sensed the team would be nervous.
More calls… Leo (Andrei’s Manager) calls me up and tells me that the days of Andrei fighting with a broken hand are over and we don’t have to take fights we don’t need and if he is hurt we can just call it off. But there were about 100 of Arlovski’s entourage who paid in advance for tickets to the fight and the plane tickets, his sponsors and the UFC had invested a lot of money in promotion as well.
It was the first UFC fight in California, there was the UFC All Access, Spike TV promotion and most of all Arlovski wanted this fight.
Andrei is a mans man and is a man of his word and would never let his team nor his fans down so I said,
‘We’re putting him in the ring’.
Tuesday, I worked on him for about 2 and a half hours in the morning and 2 and a half hours in the evening.
Andrei didn’t come into the office Wednesday morning, which scared me because he had an appointment.
I got the call from him later which was good news that he was sparring with full range of motion that morning which relieved the pressure on everyone.
On Wednesday and Thursday we did another couple of hours each day.
So we’re talking about around 16 hours of grueling deep tissue work on his neck in three or four days.
So by the time we got to the fight he was pain free with full range of motion.”
I don’t want to talk about the result. He just got caught. That’s all.
Give the guy a break, it’s the UFC.
Leading up to the fight with Tim Sylvia (Part 2) at UFC July 8th, 2006.
As of June 1 2006 nothing to report. Andrei heals faster than any athletes I have ever worked with.
“What’s different about Andrei and a lot of fighters that I notice is that guys will come and do their strength and conditioning for 6 to 8 weeks prior to a major fight.
After the fight they’ll sit around for 3 or 4 weeks while they are “chillin” They do no sparring or strength and conditioning and loose much of the gain they had in the last training cycle. They come back and do their strength and conditioning about 6 weeks which maybe brings them to the strength and conditioning level as the fight before but in fighting the opponents get tougher as a natural transgression of your career.
So they are going to fight a more seasoned, tougher guy with a harder chin without making any real progress in their athletic ability. Maybe the heart will win the fight. Say that when your arms feel like dead weight around 10 minutes into the fight.
Who are you fooling!?
Andrei doesn’t take that 3 or 4 weeks off, maybe 4 or 5 days or a week but comes back and works his ass off and also has the diet under control. He is a full time employee. So he will come back so much tougher for the next fight.”
Both Stoxen and Arlovski have a solid relationship built on trust, which allows Arlovski to do what he says without thinking much about it, and thus yield the benefits quickly. But sometimes Arlovski is uncertain about what is going on and question the doc. “There have been times when he doesn’t understand what I’m doing and he fights with me a little bit saying ‘Why are you doing that?’”, explains Stoxen. “Thank God we’ve been working together for over 6 years and I know he trusts me at this point.
Even though he fights me, I remind him that I’m the doctor and he’s the patient, and I tell him to leave the doctoring to me and he’ll do the rest and we’ll be fine.” It is often a comical relationship between the doctor and patient. “He laughs at me because obviously Andrei can rip my head off but he would never do such a thing. Well, you never know.
We have sort of a funny relationship”, says Stoxen laughing. “I’ll work on his shoulder and he’ll kind of let out a little moan and I’ll tell him to be quiet and then he responds by saying ‘James, I’ll kill you.’ (laughs) And I’ll say ‘Yeah yeah be quiet and take it like a man and deal with.’” Despite the few comical arguments between the two, the confidence level and the trust factor between Arlovski and Stoxen is there and has allowed Arlovski to gain quite a bit from their relationship.
It’s been great for Arlovski, but not so fun for his opponents.
You haven’t seen the best Andrei Arlovski. From what I see, his body and skill level is 4 to 6 years from maturing. You normally don’t see a fighter get a title shot before they have had 25 fights. He is still learning and getting stronger and faster. Soon, he will shock all of you all! Dr Stoxen