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What caused Shane Carwin's body to seize up at UFC 116?


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Another good article by this "Fight Doc".




Following his near-victory and then eventual submission loss to UFC champ Brock Lesnar this past weekend at UFC 116, Shane Carwin blogged about his body "seizing up" after an active first round.


Carwin maintains his "cardio was fine, but my body was not."


In a bonus installment of "Ask the Fight Doc," MMAjunkie.com medical columnist Dr. Johnny Benjamin discusses what could have caused such a turn of events and how epinephrine surges physiologically are quite similar to anxiety attacks.


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Hi Doc: Got a question about Shane Carwin's endurance. Post fight, he said, "Toward the end of the (first round), my body began to seize up. In between rounds, I could not move my legs and had what felt like a whole body cramp. My cardio was fine, but my body was not." I've never experienced something like this myself; then again, I'm not 265-plus pounds and 35 years old. Is there a condition that causes this to happen, or do you believe that his adrenalin got the better of him because he thought he had Brock Lesnar beat and wore himself out? Thanks, Travis


Now, this is a very popular question!


I'd love to know an accurate pay-per-view number for UFC 116. And remember, PPV is just how many actually paid ? not watched or stole the feed. From the sheer volume of emails I received with this particular question, the number must be huge.


Adrenaline dumping is a very popular phrase in the worlds of fitness and combat sports. It truly is not common medical terminology. The phrase appears to be used to describe some of the characteristics associated with a surge of epinephrine (adrenaline) released during extreme physical exertion (sports and/or fighting).


An epinephrine surge prepares the body for the classic fight-or-flight scenario: significant increase in heart rate, rapid breathing, glucose surge in blood for energy, heightened awareness, sweating, etc.


It is interesting to note that this is the same physiology involved in an anxiety attack.


Unfortunately, this level of readiness expends a great deal of energy. Therefore, it cannot be maintained for long. That is why veterans of the fight game will often admonish combatants to "stay relaxed" and "slow your breathing" in hopes of blunting the epinephrine surge.


I believe that Carwin's perception that his body seized and wouldn't respond likely was due to several factors with increased levels of epinephrine aggravating the underlying physiology.


Improper hydration related to weight-cutting cannot be entirely dismissed. I would not be surprised if Shane Carwin was 280-plus pounds a few days prior to the weigh-in. Therefore, he would be forced to sweat and water restrict the weight off in a short period of time. This process can wreak havoc with your electrolytes, which in turn can hamper performance.


Additionally, never underestimate the amount of work being performed and energy being expended by athletes of this size. Moving your 265-plus pounds in addition to controlling another athlete's 265-plus pounds all while fighting for five minutes without interruption is an amazing feat. Now, rest for 60 seconds and do it again. And again. And again. And again.


His body failed ("seized" is his terminology) for the same reason that any massive engine does. Simply put? It was pushed too hard for too long.


Experiment: Have a training partner count while you do as many push-ups as you can for four minutes without resting. Then immediately transition to the bench press and lift an empty bar (45 pounds) as quickly as you can for one minute. Rest for exactly 60 seconds. Do as many push-ups as you can for five minutes without rest.


How many did you do? Not many, huh?


Now, if you add an epinephrine surge to these dynamics, you may begin to understand 1 percent of what Carwin was experiencing during UFC 116.


For reasons such as these, I continue to assert that elite MMA athletes are some of the greatest athletes on the planet. If we as fans discuss their athleticism more and the gladiatorial aspects of the sport less, maybe MMA will gain greater respect with influential law makers in important markets such as New York and Ontario.


Dr. Johnny Benjamin is MMAjunkie.com's medical columnist and consultant and a noted combat-sports specialist. He is also a member of the Association of Boxing Commissions' MMA Medical Subcommittee. Dr. Benjamin writes an "Ask the Doc" column every two weeks for MMAjunkie.com. To submit a question for a future column, email him at askthedoc [AT] mmajunkie.com, or share your questions and thoughts in the comments section below. You can find Dr. Benjamin online at http://www.drjohnnybenjamin.com, and you can read his other sports-related articles at blog.drjohnnybenjamin.com.

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