Whether you're a BJJ beginner or a seasoned grappler, it's important to remember that injuries are a very real part of this grappling game we all love. While some bumps and bruises are parred for the course, more serious injuries can damage your training and overall quality of life.
That's why taking steps to avoid injury in BJJ is important.
Additional Resource: 14 Ways To Make Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Safer (Prevent Injuries)
In this guide, we'll cover everything from common BJJ injuries to preventative measures you can take to keep yourself healthy on the mats. We'll talk about the importance of warming up before training, using protective gear when necessary, and taking rest days to let your body recover.
We'll also explore how to identify potential signs of injury and when to consult a medical professional.
But that's not all! We'll also delve into the specific safety measures you can take to avoid injury in BJJ, such as using proper form and training with experienced partners who understand the basics of technique. And we'll discuss how building functional strength and range of motion can help prevent injuries in the first place. So, grab a cup of coffee, put on your favorite gi, and dive in!
Understanding The Risk of Injuries In BJJ
A survey of over a thousand athletes worldwide found that injuries are common in this sport. Two out of every three athletes reported getting injured badly enough to miss at least two weeks of training in three years.
So, where are these injuries happening? The knees seem particularly vulnerable, with meniscal injuries, ACL tears, and medial collateral ligament injuries topping the list. Most injuries occur during sparring and are caused by submissions and takedowns. And who's most at risk? The older and more experienced you are, the higher your risk of injury. So, all you seasoned vets out there, be careful!
This is because wear and tear over the years can lead to joint stiffness, muscle imbalances, and other age-related issues that can increase your risk of injury. The deterioration of collagen in the body can also make us more susceptible to injury.
Some experts claim that collagen-rich foods and supplements and strengthening the range of motion can help combat deterioration and make you less prone to injury. However, consulting with a medical is the best way to determine if any of these strategies could help you.
Overall, it's important to be aware of the risks involved in BJJ and take steps to prevent injury. Warm up properly, use protective gear when necessary, and be mindful of your training partners' techniques. And if you do get injured, don't try to push through it. Take the time to rest and recover so you can get back on the mats stronger and healthier than ever.
Common Injuries In BJJ
So, you're thinking about starting Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, eh? Before you do, let me give you the rundown on the 5 most common injuries you'll encounter on the mat.
Common Injury #1 - Back Injuries
First up, we've got lower back injuries. These happen when someone bigger than you decide to push your body in ways it wasn't meant to go. It can lead to a pulled muscle or, even worse, a slipped disc. Yikes.
To help prevent this, make sure you keep your core muscles strong and use proper form when rolling or drilling. Stacking or inverting your spine can also put unnecessary stress on your back and should be avoided.
Thus, if berimbolos and other such techniques are beyond your current level of skill, you should probably avoid them until you can execute them safely.
Common Injury #2 - Neck Injuries
Next, we've got neck injuries. These can occur when you're deep stacked, attempting to break free from a headlock, or trying to avoid getting rolled. Make sure to quickly determine if it's muscular or nerve damage because, trust me, you don't want to mess around with nerve pain.
We covered neck strengthening and its importance in an earlier article, so make sure to check it out. It will help you keep your neck safe from injury on the mats: Why Training Your Neck Is Important For BJJ.
Common Injury #3 - Knee Injuries
Knee injuries are also common, thanks to leglocks and sweeps. Muscular injuries can be painful but will usually heal relatively quickly. However, a tear to the ligament can mean months, if not years, of rehab. Although knee braces can help you train with a previous injury, prevention is still the best way to go.
Knee health should be maintained by always warming up properly, using correct form when executing techniques, and taking a break if you feel any pain or discomfort. 'Knees Over Toes Guy' has found benefits for his knee health by training his hip mobility, range of motion, and strength.
Common Injury #4 - Shoulders
Shoulder injuries can happen from submissions themselves but also from the awkward postures we find ourselves in when rolling. Pain or a decrease in range of motion can be an indication that something is wrong. Shoulder dislocations can happen (from experience) from being swept and landing hard on the shoulder.
Warm-ups should involve a series of stretches and joint rotations to help prepare your shoulders for any movements you might encounter on the mat. Additionally, strengthening your rotator cuff can help build more stability in the joint and allow you to resist injury when rolling.
Common Injury #5 - Concussions
Although the aim of BJJ is not to try and hurt your opponent, there can still be a risk of head trauma when rolling. Concussions are rare but should not be taken lightly as the severe effects of this type of injury can be life-changing.
Can You Get A Concussion From BJJ? Simply put, yes. It is possible to suffer a concussion from BJJ and it should not be taken lightly. Always take caution when rolling with someone and do what you can to ensure minimal contact with your head.
If you suspect that someone has suffered a concussion on the mats, make sure they take a break and seek medical attention immediately. Don't slam your training partners and control your strength when rolling.
If you need help with technique or have trouble controlling your power, seek out a coach who can help you refine your skills. Knowing how to break fall and roll correctly will also help protect your head from unnecessary trauma.
Common Injury #6 - Fingers and Toes
Whether it be inflammation from overuse or a toe getting caught in a play from your opponent, finger, and toe injuries are quite common. It's important to take care of these areas as they can mean the difference between a quick recovery and weeks of pain.
Preventing these injuries is a little more difficult but a few tips are to make sure you warm up your hands and feet properly before rolling. Additionally, it's important to go slow on the technique until your body gets used to it. This will help you avoid any potential injuries.
Anti-inflammatory lifestyle changes such as eating certain foods, using cold and heat therapy, or supplementation can also help reduce inflammation and protect your fingers and toes. Finger tape is commonly used as well and is covered in detail here: Why Do BJJ Practitioners Wear Finger Tape?
Common Injury #7 - Ear Injuries
And last but not least, we've got cauliflower ear. This one is inevitable if you're grappling. Still, you can prevent it from getting out of control by draining the ear a few days after the injury, wearing headgear to prevent injury, or being less aggressive during sparring sessions. For example, friction and repetitive motion can cause the ear to swell. So, tap out if you feel like your partner is jerking or pulling on your ear.
Importance of Warming Up Before Training
Before you dive into the intense training, make sure to warm up properly. Here's why:
- Prepare your body for the training: Think of it as getting your body ready for the party. You would only show up to a club if you got dressed and put on makeup, would you? The same goes for your muscles. They need to loosen up and get ready for the action.
- Calm your muscles and increase your heart rate: It's like waking your sleepy friends to start the party. Your muscles need to wake up, too. A good warm-up gets your heart pumping, which delivers oxygen to your muscles, making them more alert and less prone to injuries.
- Reduce the risk of injuries: Nobody wants to get hurt while having fun. Warm-ups help reduce the risk of injuries by loosening up your muscles and increasing their elasticity. It's like stretching a rubber band before using it; you don't want it to snap.
- Raise your body temperature: Warm-ups increase your body temperature, which makes your muscles more pliable and receptive to the training that lies ahead. It's like cooking a steak; you want to warm it before grilling it to perfection.
- Increase flexibility: Being flexible is crucial in BJJ. Warm-ups help you stretch and get more limber, improving your performance during training and preventing injuries.
- Enhance physical strength and stamina: By warming up, you're preparing your body to push harder and last longer. It's like putting premium fuel in your car before a race; you want it to perform at its best.
- Keep your balance and stability: Balance is essential in BJJ. Warm-ups help improve your balance and stability, making you less likely to lose your footing and get thrown off your game.
- Helps the muscles to contract easily: A good warm-up helps your muscles contract and move more efficiently, improving your overall performance during training.
So there you have it, folks. Warm-ups are like the opening act before the headliner. They prepare your body for the main event, reduce the risk of injuries, and help you perform at your best. By doing animal flow functional movements that relate to BJJ-specific movements, you’ll be able to improve your mobility, power, and coordination while also reducing the risk of injury.
Protective Gear In BJJ
BJJ can be a rough-and-tumble sport, so protecting yourself is important. Here are some thoughts on protective gear:
Mouth guard: Yeah, it's not the coolest look, but neither is a missing tooth. A custom sports guard from your dentist will give you better protection and comfort.
Ear guards: They may be counterproductive if they get in the way, but if you're worried about getting cauliflower ear, go for it. Otherwise, just be mindful of protecting your head and tap if necessary.
Athletic cup: Some guys swear by them, but it can be painful for your training partner if you're using your armored crotch as a fulcrum for armbars. It's better to learn to use your legs for pressure and control. A soft cup may provide some padding that is helpful. Knee cuts and guard passes can be rough!
Knee pads: They might be helpful if you're doing a lot of takedowns, but good technique can go a long way. For groundwork and most throws, they're unnecessary.
Compression wear: Shown to help reduce the risk of injury, compression wear is something to consider. This is because it helps with blood flow and muscle recovery which can help your performance. Submission Shark has you covered here.
It's up to you whether you decide to use protective gear or not, but it should be part of your decision-making process. Ultimately, it's your responsibility to stay safe while training and competing in BJJ.
Rest and Recovery days
Listen up, fellow athletes! Rest and recovery days are as important as the days you spend crushing it on the mats. And let me tell you, sleep is king in recovery.
It's like plugging your body into a charger and letting it recharge those internal batteries. Make sure you're getting a solid 8 hours of shut-eye each night, and if you're feeling extra fancy, add a mid-day nap to your routine like ADCC champion Gordon Ryan.
It's like a shot of espresso but without the jitters and crashes.
But don't just lay around like a sloth on your rest days. Keep the blood flowing with some active recovery. Stretching is a great way to get those muscles to relax and move more efficiently. Plus, it feels pretty good. Foam rolling is another great option. It helps improve mobility and reduce soreness in muscles and connective tissues. It's like giving your body a nice massage, and who doesn't love a good massage?
The fascia tissue can often be neglected, and it's important to use tools like lacrosse balls and foam rollers to work out any knots or tightness in the body. Drinking plenty of water will also help flush out lactic acid buildup and keep your body functioning at its highest level.
Magnesium baths, saunas, and cold exposures are also great options to increase recovery time and speed up the process. Pair these with some visualization techniques and your BJJ game will be in top form. Ambition can often lead to overtraining but being mindful of rest and recovery will keep you performing your best. Listen to your body, stay hydrated, and get lots of sleep.
Remember, recovery time varies from person to person. Some of you may only need a day or two of rest before you're ready to get back on the mats, while others need more time to recover fully. It's all about finding what works for you, so don't be afraid to experiment a little. Just ensure you're giving your body the love and care it deserves.
Not sure when to take a recovery day? This article goes into more depth...
Identifying potential signs of injury
So, you've been training hard, hitting the mats like a pro, and then you start feeling pain or discomfort. What's going on? It could be a sign that your body is trying to tell you something, like, "Hey, slow down there, buddy!" Here are some potential signs of injury to look out for:
- Pain: If you feel pain in your joints that lasts longer than 48 hours, it's a good idea to get it checked out. Pain is your body's way of telling you something is wrong, so don't ignore it.
- Swelling: Swelling is a pretty obvious sign that something is not right. If you notice swelling in your joints, it's time to take a break and let your body heal.
- Tenderness to the touch: Tenderness could indicate an injury if your joints are tender. Take a break from training and let your body recover.
- Limited movement: If you can't move your joints like you normally would, it's a sign that something is wrong. Don't push through the pain - give your body time to heal.
- Numbness: Numbness in your joints is not a good sign. It could be a sign of nerve damage or injury, so make sure to get it checked out by a medical professional.
Prevention is the best medicine, so take care of your body and listen to what it tells you. If you experience any of these signs, don't ignore them - get it checked out and take the necessary steps to recover properly.
Consulting Medical Professionals
If you're feeling some pain, swelling, tenderness, or numbness after your BJJ training, it's time to consult a medical professional. And no, I'm not talking about Dr. Google. While the internet can be a great resource, it's important to remember that it can also be a rabbit hole of misinformation and anxiety.
Although Submission Shark uses information from many different sources, it is not a replacement for professional medical advice. Instead, try to consult with a real-life doctor or physical therapist who can examine your body and give you a proper diagnosis. They may recommend some exercises or physical therapy to help you recover or suggest some rest time to let your body heal.
Now, I know that going to the doctor can be a hassle. There's the scheduling, the waiting, and, let's remember, the dreaded paper gown. But trust me, it's better to take care of any potential injuries early rather than ignore them and risk further damage.
So, if you're experiencing any potential signs of injury we mentioned earlier, don't hesitate to seek medical advice. Your body will thank you for it in the long run.
Safety Measures In BJJ
We all love rolling in BJJ, but let's ensure we do it safely. Don't hurt your training partners! Remember, it's about using the technique, not strength.
Don't try to show off by overpowering your opponent with brute force - that's not cool. Use the techniques you've learned instead; everyone will be happier and healthier. Training is different than the competition. Know what your partner's goals are and adjust your intensity accordingly.
When performing a technique, use only the amount of force necessary to complete the move and never go beyond what is comfortable for your partner. Don't do any moves that you know could injure someone, and always warm up properly beforehand to reduce the risk of potential injuries.
Also, don't go into rolling with a "don't get tapped" or "go for the tap" mindset. It's not about who taps who first. We're here to learn and train, not compete. Leave your ego at the door, and let's all grow together. And if it's time to tap, do it deliberately, fast, hard, and loud.
Make sure your opponent has the chance to tap by practicing the 2-second rule. Count "one thousand one, one thousand two" after setting a submission hold (without applying pressure), before applying any pressure. This gives your partner plenty of time to tap out. And if you feel like you'll get caught in a submission, tap out! It's always better to be safe than sorry.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: When to Tap? How to Avoid Getting Injured in BJJ
Finally, never let anger take over when rolling. If you are frustrated, take a breath and keep your cool. We want to maintain a safe and comfortable environment for learning and training. Taping at the correct time is paramount to keep everyone safe and healthy. When drilling, letting go early and having good control will make a world of difference in preventing injuries.