If Submission Moves Were Real Part 2: Breaking Down the Figure Four Leg-Lock

Louie Babcock@Medic_LouieContributor IIIMarch 9, 2012

Picture from http://ww.femmixwrestling.com/
Picture from http://ww.femmixwrestling.com/

The figure four leg-lock is a submission move used in pro wrestling, made famous by Ric Flair.

We are led to believe that once this move is applied, the wrestler who is trapped in it is experiencing an incredible amount of pain.

The wrestlers do this as part of the show that is pro wrestling.

Wrestlers do not actively try to hurt one another, yet the moves that they use are capable of inflicting an enormous amount of pain if applied with full force.

The figure-four is a hard move to explain in words just how it is applied.

The wrestler who is trapped in the figure-four will have his right leg bent at the knee, laid perpendicular, and placed on top of the left leg, which is straight. The straight leg of the opponent will be kept straight because of how it is positioned in the hold.

The wrestler applying the hold will have his left leg placed into the gap that is created by the position of his opponent's legs. The right leg of the wrestler applying the hold will be laid across the ankle of his opponent's right leg. This is where the pain would begin, if maximum force was applied.

There would be two areas on the opponent that would experience pain. The primary site would be the knee of the opponent's left leg. Remember this leg is straight, and this is where the opponent's right leg is laying.

From directory.leadmaverick.com
From directory.leadmaverick.com

When the wrestler applies downward force on the ankle of the perpendicular leg, it forces the knee to bend in a way that it was not intended. This is called hyper-extension.

During hyper-extension, force is applied to all the ligaments and tendons that are attached to the knee. If constant downward pressure continues, these structures will begin to tear and rupture.

This would require surgery to repair the knee. Depending on the extent of the damage, a wrestler could miss up to six months recovering from an injury like this.

The second area of pressure would be the right ankle of the wrestler who is in the hold. The ankle joint is designed for up and down movement.

The downward pressure on the ankle that is applied by the wrestler to his opponent would force it to bend in a way that it is not designed for. As in the knee, the ligaments and tendons would be prone to tearing.

In wrestling, when this move is applied, we see the wrestler who is in the hold try to turn over to relieve the pressure. There is some truth to this.

By turning over on your stomach, you take away the other wrestler's ability to keep the downward pressure on. This also allows the wrestler in the hold to get a slight bend in the knee which also relieves the pressure of the hold.

Picture from www.holladayphysicalmedicine.com
Picture from www.holladayphysicalmedicine.com

We are told that by rolling over, the pressure of the hold is transferred to the one who applied it. This is not completely true.

As explained earlier, the pain and damage come from the leg being placed into a state of hyper-extension. 

Logic dictates that if your opponent rolls on to their stomach, you also end up on your stomach. If the opponent can now bend their leg slightly, the person who applied the hold can bend their leg slightly too.

The pain that comes from "reversing" the figure four is the pressure that is placed on the knees of the person which are now directly in contact with the ground.

Even though the figure four has been shown to create a great deal of injuries in this article, it would not end the career of a wrestler.

Thank you for reading part 2 of my submission series. If you would like to read part 1, Breaking Down The Walls of Jericho, you can read it here.

Next week, part 3 will discuss the cross-face.

Louie Babcock has over five years experience working in emergency medicine. He is also studying Biology and Health Science at the University of Minnesota.

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