"Every high-profile situation that you have like this, you have to treat 'em appropriately. The reality is it is devastating and career-threatening, and the fact that King Mo is able to persevere through that and still be a world-class athlete in my mind is definitely one of these situations where I don't think it is anything short of calling it a medical miracle. It's not like curing some polio disease or something like that, but to have somebody fight at that level with that bad of a problem is impressive," stated Dr. Kalle Stidham, who shed light on just how impressive it is that Bellator light heavyweight King Mo Lawal was able to successfully return to MMA competition after suffering a career-threatening staph infection and ACL surgery. Check out what else he had to say!
PC: Thanks for your time. I spoke with Daniel Cormier and he was very excited to walk away from a fight without a broken hand and he gave you the credit for the job that you did on it. What exactly was the issue with DC's hand and how did you fix it?
KS: What happened was, and you probably know the timetable better than I do, but the reality is he broke it against Silva and then he went to some other physicians that chose to put him in a cast and go the non-operative route. The only problem was his fracture was so angulated that it didn't heal, so he had a couple of options to fix it now or fight Barnett. And since the stakes were so high against Barnett, he had to fight with a non-union; when a fracture isn't healed, it's called a non-union. And there wasn't any surprise that he broke it in the Barnett fight. So then we had to do surgery. I better aligned the fracture and then I provided ridged sensations with the plates and screws and that's the bottom line. So now he shouldn't have any problems with it.
PC: You are also the guy that handled King Mo's staph infection as well as his ACL surgery. After his Bellator debut, you called his situation a medical miracle. Was that the most extreme case of staph that you have ever dealt with?
KS: Yeah, and I hope it's my last, Percy. Every high-profile situation that you have like this, you have to treat 'em appropriately. The reality is it is devastating and career-threatening, and the fact that King Mo is able to persevere through that and still be a world-class athlete in my mind is definitely one of these situations where I don't think it is anything short of calling it a medical miracle. It's not like curing some polio disease or something like that, but to have somebody fight at that level with that bad of a problem is impressive. And Percy, the thing that some people don't understand in King Mo's situation is he is now on his fourth ACL. Everybody looked at the bacteria situation, which is devastating, but yet the reality is he is on his fourth ACL. He doesn't have the best articular cartilage and he doesn't have the best meniscus, so his knee is in a situation that can cause a lot of pain and swelling, but yet he is able to just deal with the pain and really get himself in a mindset where he is able to persevere.
PC: When you are dealing with someone that had the chronic knee issues, and to top it off the bacteria infection, were you ever close to telling King Mo he may want to find another profession?
KS: I don't think we ever got to that situation, but when you deal with pro athletes, everyone's career is to the end. It's a different level when you are talking about somebody that is in King Mo's situation or somebody who needs to fight for income. We weren't in that situation yet. If you look closely at King Mo's case, the reason why he had multiple surgeries to wash out the bacteria is because we tried our very best to save the graph because he had already had 3 ACL's at the time, Percy. So anytime that you have an infection like he did, that came from his skin alright and then what happens is when it gets inside of the knee, which is not a normal environment for it, it can literally take over your knee. If you can find an infection before 3 months, your job as a sports surgeon is to try to wash it out multiple times and try to save the graph from getting infected. And the problem with King Mo's situation is it wasn't skill set or anything like that; the problem was that the bacteria was so aggressive that it infected his graph, and the only way he got better is we had to take the entire graph out and all of the screws that fixated it, and once we did that, King Mo got better. Then the problem is you have to wait multiple months after to make sure that, clinically, the infection is all gone, and then you have to go back in and put another ACL in, so that's the big thing pro athletes in general are more than likely to get infections from ACL's compared to the public. I think what we are going to find is MMA athletes are probably gonna be suspect to it as opposed to non-MMA athletes. What I think we are gonna find too is that all of this artificial turf, I think we will find that by itself is also gonna be another risk factor. Anybody that has ever had surgery, even though it's low risk and not very common to have an infection, you can have one. And plus, King Mo's had infectious elbow, and I just think that a sport with all of that intimacy and contact is perfect for bacteria to stay.
PC: Do you think there are measures that can be taken in sports, in particular MMA, to prevent these infections?
KS: I mean, Percy, we are in a different world now, man. And what I mean by that is we don't have scientists and earthly doctors. We trying to rely on science and we don't have enough data and information to guide the cure. But what I have been trying to do mainly through awareness and King Mo's situation I think we need to keep these guys on antibiotics maybe a couple of weeks after surgery. Let's just say, Percy, you had an ACL fixed tomorrow; the chance is we will give you antibiotics during surgery, but we won't give them to you afterwards. Maybe that's one way to do it with these high-risk athletes; maybe just give them a few more weeks of antibiotics after surgery and maybe scrub them down and give them special types of baths. I don't think the public realizes what we do as surgeons. One of our main goals is not to get infections. We do all kinds of stuff as far as special gloves, special gowns and drapes, and all of this. We don't know if we should treat MMA athletes different. I think we are just gonna have to get smart about it and maybe what that means is antibiotics after surgery for a few weeks. It's still very rare. I'm just trying to make the point that you are much more likely to have an infection after an ACL as a pro athlete as opposed to a non-pro athlete.
PC: When it's mentioned that he had 27 surgeries in X amount of time, that is mind blowing. Can you explain exactly what the procedure was to make him have to go through so many?
KS: I cannot wait until we can get to the point of King Mo's athletic ability opposed to the infection. And I think it would be good for him too because he needs to move on. Does that make sense?
KS: But looking back as to what happened as far as the infection goes, the reality is he had multiple surgeries basically every 3 hours mainly because he's a smart guy, you know him very well; we had several discussions talking about trying to save the graph and he was willing to have more surgeries to try to save the graph and that's why he had so many surgeries. And plus, the bacteria was so aggressive that it meant more surgeries. So he had more surgeries to save the graph, so instead of operating on him every say 72 hours like I probably would have done a non- athlete, I'm operating on him every 20 to 24 hours because I'm trying to, as fast as I can, get rid of this infection. I can take the graph out of somebody that tore their ACL that's a non-athlete, I can take that graph out, give them an antibiotic through an IV, and then they come back and put in another one. The difference is when you take care of pro athletes and Division 1 athletes, you gotta treat them how they deserve to be treated. And the reality is if you take that graph out, that's more time you are missed. So he had so many because of who he is and because he's a pro athlete and because he wanted to save the graph.
PC: I have to ask you this before I let you go, being that you are a sports surgeon. When you see what a guy like Adrien Peterson for the Minnesota Vikings did this year, how remarkable is that coming off of ACL surgery?
KS: Well, you never want to take away from an athlete's accomplishments and we all know that Adrien Peterson is a genetic freak and his ability to return to the NFL and almost break the rushing record and score the amount of touchdowns that he did this year is remarkable, but the reality is by itself, an ACL injury without a meniscus tear or cartilage problem is no longer a career-threatening injury. You can be back in your sport at roughly 9 months he came back after 10 months, so to me, it's not surprising at all. Right now, in the sports medicine world, we are doing a great job as far as mastering the knee reconstruction technique, and again, without cartilage or meniscus problems, an ACL injury by itself is no longer a career threatening injury and that's what he had; an isolated injury.
PC: Again, I appreciate your time. Every fighter that you have worked on had nothing but high praise for you. How can you be reached and is there anything else you want to add?
KS: I'm here for you to answer your calls or text, Percy. People can check out my website www.drstidham.com. I just really want this interview to put light on King Mo because he is such a great man. I would like to see a more positive outlook as to where his career is going instead of keep looking back at the infection, so hopefully we answered all questions. I want this interview to be looked at as more about perseverance and grit and somebody who was really able to put injuries aside and compete at the highest level.