Published on November 28, 2017

An MMA Fighter's Game Plan

Russell Cavallo, MD, with mixed martial art fighter, Kastriot XhemaKastriot Xhema, professional mixed martial artist (MMA) from Greenwich, is constantly preparing for his next match in the arena, working out at least two to four hours each day. But there’s another part of Kastriot’s training regimen that’s crucial: his health. In the weeks leading up to Kastriot’s fights, Dr. Russell Cavallo, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine at Stamford Health Medical Group and affiliated with HSS Orthopedics at Stamford Health, is making sure that Kastriot is fully healed of any injuries he may have sustained in a prior competition.

“For Kastriot, it’s about getting him healed to a level where he can compete and where we can ensure that there won’t be any additional damage or injury. It is critical for all athletes to heal properly and in most cases, an injury is an injury no matter what sport you play,” said Dr. Cavallo. “For sports such as baseball, football and hockey, players are able to walk onto the playing surface wearing a splint, brace or protective device which many times allows for a quicker return. For MMA competitors, however, it’s more challenging because they are not allowed to wear braces or protective devices for injured areas because they could be dangerous in the ring and potentially used as weapons. Excessive taping and wrapping is even precluded.”

Like any mixed martial artist, Kastriot has endured his share of injuries since getting into the sport and, in 2014, a family member recommended Dr. Cavallo. Since then, Dr. Cavallo performed shoulder surgery on Kastriot and also helped him with a neck issue, herniated disk, leg contusion and knee injury. Not every injury calls for surgery and most of the other issues were treated by Dr. Cavallo non-operatively. Those treatments include icing, bracing and splints, physical therapy – and sometimes simply prescribing much-needed rest.

“Dr. Cavallo and his whole team are great. He does everything he can and wouldn’t recommend surgery for something minor and unnecessary. He’ll even reach out to me to make sure everything’s ok and that I don’t have any issues,” said Kastriot, who turned pro in April 2017. “When I need medical treatment or advice, I also always ask Dr. Cavallo because I know he will listen.”

With several competitions every year, Kastriot says he gets pretty banged up. But, he enjoys “putting on a good show and getting the crowd into it.” Kastriot is now busy preparing for his next fight.

Dr. Cavallo’s support for his patient sometimes extends beyond physical therapy at his office.

“He really understands the sport and has even come to some of my fights,” said Kastriot. “I highly recommend anyone to Dr. Cavallo – especially athletes.”