Can You Get A Concussion From BJJ?

    BJJ, short for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is a grappling-based martial art that has gained immense popularity recently. It involves taking down opponents and maneuvering them into submission holds without striking them. However, like any physical sport, accidents can happen, and collisions can occur during takedowns or even while rolling.

    an x ray of the brain

    In this article, we'll explore the risks of concussions in BJJ and offer tips on preventing them. We'll also guide what to do if you suspect a concussion and how to encourage BJJ practitioners to prioritize safety in their training.

    What is a Concussion?

    A concussion is a brain injury that can occur due to a blow, bump, or jolt to the head or a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. It is a type of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) that can cause temporary disruption in brain function.

    The brain is a delicate organ that floats in cerebrospinal fluid inside the skull. When the head experiences a sudden impact, the brain can collide with the inside of the skull, causing it to shift and twist. This movement can lead to chemical changes in the brain and even damage to brain cells.

    Concussions can vary in severity and can have a wide range of symptoms. Some symptoms may appear immediately after the injury, while others may take several days to develop.

    Symptoms of a Concussion

    Concussions can have a wide range of symptoms that can vary in severity and may not appear immediately after the injury. In adults, some common symptoms include: 

    • Headaches
    • Sensitivity to light
    • Difficulty balancing
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Confusion
    • Change in mood
    • Trouble concentrating

    These symptoms can interfere with daily activities and may worsen with physical or mental exertion. Children who suffer from concussions may display similar symptoms to adults but can also show signs unique to their age group. Common symptoms in kids include: 

    • Dizziness
    • Fatigue
    • Headache
    • Irritability
    • Slurred speech
    • Difficulty sleeping

    Children may also show changes in behavior, such as: 

    • Increased crying
    • Clinginess
    • Unwillingness to participate in activities they typically enjoy

    It's important to note that concussion symptoms can develop over time and may not be immediately apparent. Sometimes, symptoms may not appear until several days after the injury occurs. Therefore, it's essential to monitor individuals who have experienced a head injury and seek medical attention if any concerning symptoms arise.

    When to Seek Medical Attention

    It's essential to seek medical attention if you suspect you or someone you know has a concussion. While some symptoms may be mild and go away independently, others may require urgent medical care.

    emergency room in concept art

    Suppose you or someone else has experienced a blow to the head or body and is showing symptoms such as confusion, dizziness, or loss of consciousness. In that case, it's important to seek medical attention immediately. 

    Additionally, it's crucial to call 911 or go to the emergency room if any of the following symptoms occur:

    • A headache that gets worse and doesn't go away
    • Weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination
    • Convulsions or seizures
    • Repeated vomiting

    It's important to note that concussion symptoms can worsen over time and may not appear immediately after the injury. Therefore, it's essential to monitor individuals who have suffered a head injury and seek medical attention if any concerning symptoms arise.

    Remember, it's always better to err on the side of caution regarding head injuries. Seeking prompt medical attention can ensure proper diagnosis and treatment, leading to a safer and quicker recovery.

    Safety Considerations for BJJ Practitioners

    As a grappling-based sport, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) can come with risks of injuries, including concussions. A study conducted in the United States found that 25.2% of adult BJJ practitioners surveyed reported experiencing a concussion related to their practice. 

    Brain study

    Women were found to have a higher prevalence of concussion than men, and having a prior history of concussion was also identified as a risk factor. Coaches and practitioners must be aware of these risks and take steps to prevent them.

    Although strikes to the head aren't typically allowed in BJJ, sweeps, throws, and submission techniques can still result in head trauma. Here are some safety considerations for BJJ practitioners to keep in mind:

    • Proper technique: Practitioners should learn and practice proper techniques to reduce the likelihood of injuries.
    • Warm-up exercises: Warming up before practice can help prepare the body for the physical demands of BJJ.
    • Learning how to break fall: Knowing how to break falls can help prevent injuries during training.
    • Improving neck strength: Research has shown that improving neck strength can reduce the likelihood of concussions. For every pound of muscle in the neck, there is a 5% reduction in the probability of concussion from whiplash according to this study.
    • Respectful training: Practitioners should be mindful of their training partners and avoid intentionally slamming or spiking them on their heads.

    BJJ Training with friends

    By taking these precautions and prioritizing safety in their training, BJJ practitioners can reduce their risk of injury and continue to enjoy the sport.

    Importance of Improving Neck Strength for Injury Prevention

    Improving neck strength has been identified as a critical factor in injury prevention for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners. Stronger neck muscles can help reduce the likelihood of sustaining a concussion, a common injury in the sport. 

    According to a study, a prior history of concussion and being female were independently associated with an increased risk of sustaining a BJJ-related concussion. This underscores the need to prioritize injury prevention measures, such as neck strengthening exercises, to reduce the risk of serious injury.

    By training your neck muscles, you can make them more resilient to the forces involved in grappling and takedowns, helping to prevent tissue damage. A stronger neck also means you are less likely to be concussed in the event of a head impact. 

    Many BJJ coaches and practitioners recommend incorporating neck-strengthening exercises into your training routine. Check out this article for more information on why training your neck is important for injury prevention in BJJ: Why Training Your Neck Is Important For BJJ

    Dealing with Suspected Concussions

    If you or your training partner suspect a concussion during a BJJ session, taking immediate action is essential to ensure proper recovery. The first step is to seek medical attention and follow your doctor's advice on recovering from a concussion. 

    This usually involves physical and mental rest, which means avoiding activities requiring thinking and mental concentration for the first two days after the injury.

    In addition to seeking medical attention, there are several steps you can take to manage a suspected concussion in BJJ:

    1. Stop training: If you or your training partner suspect a concussion, stop training immediately and seek medical attention.
    2. Monitor symptoms: Monitor symptoms like headache, nausea, confusion, or mood changes. If symptoms worsen or don't improve, seek medical attention immediately.
    3. Please communicate with your coach: Inform your coach about the injury so they can support you in your recovery and adjust training as necessary.
    4. Follow a return-to-play protocol: Your doctor will provide guidelines for when it's safe to return to BJJ training. Following these guidelines is essential to avoid re-injury and ensure a safe and effective return to training.

    Taking the proper steps and being mindful of the recovery process can help manage a suspected concussion and ensure a safe return to BJJ training.

    Nutrition and Supplements For Concussions

    Although this isn't medical advice (as nothing on Submission Shark is meant to replace seeking medical advice or care), eating a healthy diet and taking supplements are thought to be beneficial for concussion recovery. 

    It's recommended to consume foods that are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants such as dark green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts and seeds, fatty fish, and lean proteins. Additionally, taking supplements like omega-3s or B vitamins may help heal the brain after a concussion.

    Lion's mane has been reported by some to have beneficial effects on recovery after a concussion. Lion's mane is an edible mushroom that is available in supplement form and has potential neuroprotective effects. There are also some encouraging studies regarding astaxanthin, which is a carotenoid found in some seafood. Astaxanthin has anti-inflammatory properties and may be beneficial for concussion recovery.

    Ultimately, always seek medical advice and follow the doctor's recommendations for concussion recovery. Nutrition may have some potential benefits in terms of recovery, but it is not a substitute for medical advice. Always seek medical advice before embarking on any new dietary changes or taking supplements.

    Encouraging Precautions and Prioritizing Safety

    Taking precautions and prioritizing safety should always be a top concern when practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The risk of injury can be significantly reduced by implementing safety measures, such as proper equipment, mats, and rules, and providing thorough training to all participants. Not only does this create a safer environment for everyone involved, but it can also benefit the facility in the long run by preventing employee turnover due to injuries or health conditions.

    The first technique that should be learned in BJJ is how to fall safely. Implementing the proper break-fall technique will not only reduce the risk of injury from falls, but it will also help protect the neck and head area, which is essential in preventing concussions. Tuck the chin and dispurss the energy from falls to help reduce the risk of neck injury and concussion.

    In addition, a ccording to the University of Calgary, wearing protective gear such as a mouthguard can also help reduce the risk of head injury.

    “An off-the-shelf mouthguard is an inexpensive and effective way to protect against concussion, but we are in the early days of investigating the biomechanics of the specific types of the mouthguards that are best,” - Brent Hagel

    Headbutts, elbows and specific techniques should also be avoided to help reduce the risk of head trauma. Of course accidental head trauma can occur in serious sparring, but being careful and mindful of the risk of head injuries is essential to reduce the risk of concussion. Controlled movements and taking care not to overexert yourself are also important steps in the prevention of head injury.

    BJJ Training Art

    It's important to remember that accidents can still happen, and it's crucial to be prepared to handle them. A plan for dealing with suspected concussions or other injuries is essential. All participants should be educated on recognizing the signs of a concussion and what steps to take if one is suspected.

    By making safety a priority in BJJ, everyone can enjoy the benefits of the sport without unnecessary risks to their health and well-being.


    In conclusion, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is an exciting and engaging sport with inherent risks. One of the most significant risks is the potential for concussions, which can have long-term effects on an athlete's health and well-being. 

     Training In Submission Shark BJJ Gear

    Practitioners must take precautions to minimize the risk of concussions, including wearing appropriate protective gear, being mindful of their training partners, and building neck strength. Additionally, it is important to prioritize safety in BJJ facilities and for coaches to be knowledgeable about concussions and return-to-play guidelines. 

    Finally, if an athlete suspects they may have suffered a concussion, they should seek medical attention immediately and follow proper protocols for recovery. With proper precautions and awareness, BJJ practitioners can continue to enjoy this exciting sport without sacrificing their health and safety. 

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