Do Muay Thai fighters break their legs?
Updated: Feb 5
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The growth of combat sports has seen the growth of seeing someone break their legs due to a checked kick on the TV, such as when Anderson Silva broke his leg kicking Chris Weidman, or when Connor McGregor more recently broke his leg when fighting Dustin Poirier.
If you've seen these videos, and your thinking of starting to train Muay Thai, you might be thinking, do Muay Thai fighters break their legs? The answer is yes, they do, it is a risk you take when you put yourself in a position where your shin will collide with another opponents shin.
Can you break your leg in Muay Thai?
Breaking your leg in Muay Thai is possible, however it is less common than in other combat sports such as MMA.
The frequency is less in Muay Thai as fighters will put more of an emphasis on conditioning their shins which will strengthen their shin bones and prevent them from breaking as easily if they have a kick checked.
Muay Thai fighters are also better versed in the technicalities on landing a kick, and they'll ensure that a kick lands in the meat of the thigh bone where it'll meet less resistance than if it hits a bone, which will cause the shin to fracture.
Leg breaks will most commonly occur in Muay Thai if a kick is blocked with an opponents shin. This is like kicking a wall, and if your leg breaks, it's likely due to it bending around your opponents shin due to the force.
Does Muay Thai strengthen your shin bones?
If your worried about your leg breaking in Muay Thai then you'll probably be thinking about different ways in which you can strengthen your shin bones.
Training Muay Thai will naturally strengthen your shin bones over time as you kick the heavy bag, spar and hit the pads. As you damage your shins, small chips are created in the shin bone, which in time will repair thicker and stronger, creating a more dense, and strong shin bone.
If your looking for different ways in which you can strengthen your shin bones, you can:
Kick a heavy bag
Build muscle in your shins with weight training
Perform light technical sparring with no shin pads to get used to shin on shin contact
How do fighters break their legs?
If your watching a fight and you see a fighter break their leg, you might be thinking, how did that happen? Below we've put together a list of some of the main reasons that fighters break their legs in fights.
Blocked Leg Kicks
Blocked leg kicks are one of the most common reasons that a fighter will break their legs. As the shin bone collides with the still shin bone that is blocking the kick, it can result in the bone snapping.
Leg breaks from blocked leg kicks are generally caused by an accumulation of damage, whereby the fighter has had several of their kicks blocked which has continued to damage the shin bone, building hairline fractures before the leg finally breaks due to the continued damage.
Pre-fight injuries can be a leading cause of how fighters break their legs. Fighters will often push through the pain barriers with injuries and fight injured so that they don't have to pull out of a fight.
Going into a fight injured can further aggravate the injury and make it worse. Fighters going into a fight with a hairline fracture in their shin at at risk of further damaging the fracture and breaking their leg.
Incorrect Kicking Technique
A common cause of leg breaks is incorrect kicking technique. This can either be that the kick is thrown incorrectly or that it is not landed in the intended spot on the opponent.
Legs breaks due to incorrect kicking technique are far less common in Muay Thai, but are often seen more in MMA, especially with the popularity of MMA fighters trying to kick their opponents calf.
The calf muscles are less conditioned than the leg muscles which means that they will become seriously damaged with less kicks than the thigh. The problem with kicking the calf is that you put yourself at risk of kicking the shin, and continued kicking of the shin in a fight will only result in a leg break.
Leg breaks can happen in Muay Thai, just like any other sport, however if you train correctly and work towards perfecting your craft then this isn't something that you should worry about.
Avoid the things that we've mentioned above that can increase the risk of your breaking your leg in a fight, be sure to condition your shins and ensure that you know how to throw kicks correctly and you'll be fine.