Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Preventing and Healing BJJ Injuries

Disclaimer - Always seek advice from a competent medical professional.

Injuries Do Happen
 One of the simple facts of BJJ is that you will pick up injuries most will be small and easily overcome.  Realizing that BJJ comes with some risk is part of the process of preparing yourself to prevent injuries and recover quickly when they do happen.  BJJ is a combat sport and does require a certain level of fitness, the following are some fitness areas required in BJJ.

Are You a Competitor?
 Firstly if you are doing BJJ as a hobby and are not interested in competing, that is perfectly fine, you will not need the highest levels of conditioning.  If you plan to compete and compete on a regular basis a much higher level of conditioning is necessary.  Whatever your participation level a certain degree of conditioning is necessary requirement of BJJ.  Yes, technique is the highest goal but strength is need to perform the techniques.

Before you begin sparring or other BJJ related activities make sure you warmup properly.  Warmup to the point you break a light sweat.  This is especially needed in colder weather.  Cold tight ligaments and joints are more susceptible to injury.  In warming up, start very slow and build up. Starting off with a fast paced jog is not a proper warm up. The slow warm up should last for at least 10 minutes. No sudden, quick atheletic type movements should be made during this time until the body is warm. (have a light sweat)

 Most people dislike building their cardio.  It is a sweaty and hard process but it is necessary for functional sparring, also allowing you to spar longer and train more effectively.  Also building cardio is generally a healthy choice; most doctors recommend 30 minutes of elevated heart exercise every day.  If you’re a competitor a high level of cardio is necessary to compete well.  Burpees, sprawls, running stairs, running hills, running, jumping jacks are great exercises for building cardio.

Weight Training
Although BJJ is not about raw strength, technique is the ultimate goal; a certain level of strength is required to do BJJ.  It is important for anyone participating in BJJ to have a certain level of conditioning and that includes the strength and muscles to prevent injury. Kettle bells are one weight that is widely used in the grappling community to improve core strength.  Get someone to show you how to use kettle bells and other weights; don’t attempt them on your own.  Other weights such as barbells, dumbbells and others are also acceptable.

Bodyweight Exercises
Bodyweight exercises serve as another way of conditioning your body for grappling\BJJ.  Exercises like pushups, burpees, pullups, triangle armbar situps among others are great bodyweight exercises.

Dynamic Body Exercise

Dynamic body exercises build movement into your training regime.  Movements on the mats, shrimping, bear walk, army man crawl. Shoulder neck shoulder and others build fundamental movements necessary for BJJ aswell as improving balance, co-ordination.   For those interested in a higher level, gymnastics and ginastica natural are more advanced dynamic body exercises.

Some people are naturally flexible and other people really have to work on it.  Stretching is an important part of preventing injury and overall body fitness.  So if you’re flexible or not so flexible stretching is necessary.  If you plan to be a competitor consider doing yoga or Pilates.

If You Are Injured
Always seek advice from a competent medical professional.   Listen to a competent Doctor; get a second or third opinion if necessary.  Sorry but Traditional Chinese Doctors are not competent, for the most part.  If you think a bone is broken then get an x-ray, if you think a ligament is torn get an MRI.  X-rays cannot help diagnosing torn ligaments. Broken bones and torn ligaments are uncommon in BJJ.  Most BJJ injuries are not serious but as with all sports there is a risk of serious injuries.

Common BJJ Injuries
Common injuries include pulled muscles, tweaked fingers, stubbed toes, sore knees.  For most injuries occurring on the mat ice is the first remedy, without fail ice should be applied to pulled muscles and aforementioned injuries.  Ice should not be applied to cramps. Tigerbalm or other topical heating agent can be applied to cramps.


Prevention – once you are injured stop training and other activities that would further injure or aggravate the injury.

Rest – rest the properly and  get at least 8 hours of sleep

Ice – ice reduces swelling and speeds up the swelling process

Compression – apply a compression brace or bandage to the injured area, compression reduces swelling and protects the injured area.  There are many credible resources online for applying bandages.

Elevation – elevating means placing the injured body part above the heart (if possible) to facilitate better circulation; better circulation means your injury will heal easier.

Other Injury Helpers

NSAID (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) – are drugs that help reduce swelling and inflammation letting the blood flow easier to the injured area and heal faster.  Common NSAIDs are ibuprofen and Acetaminophen.  In HK you must approach a pharmacist or Doctor to get an NSAID, describing your injury to them should be sufficient to get the NSAID.  Be sure to inform them if you have any drug allergies.

Taping Injures – injuries such as tweaked fingers, toes and knees can be taped to protect and prevent further injury.  There are many credible resources online about taping injures.  Tape can be bought from your local pharmacy.

Braces – Most local sports shops will provide you an appropriate brace to either protect or support your injured area.  Doctors may also recommend a brace for an injury. For more serious injures Doctors advise is very necessary.  Not all braces are made the same, talk to more experiences BJJ players about your injury and they may have some friendly advice.

Whey Protein – Consuming whey protein after practice and after rehabilitating injures, especially muscle injuries improves muscle strength and healing.  Whey protein is absorbed immediately in the blood stream facilitating quick muscle repair.

Topical Heating Agents- for sore muscles tigerbalm, bengay or other topical heating agents may be applied.  Although ice is a better option for convenience sake topical heat agents may be used.

Other Topical Agents – there are anti-inflammatory topical agents that can be applied to injured areas.  Again in HK you will need to talk to your Doctor or pharmacist to get a hold of some.

The Sexy Ear
Cauliflower Ear – is a common BJJ injury.  Medically it is referred to as hematoma auris, perichondrial hematoma, or traumatic auricular hematoma.  What happens is that the skin of the ear becomes separated from the cartilage of the ear.  This space between the skin and the cartilage fills with liquid, usually a combination of blood, puss and other liquid.  If this liquid is not drained and the skin reattached to the cartilage it will harden to look something like a cauliflower.   The liquid can be drained by a Doctor but in Hong Kong the Doctor may not be familiar with how to drain the ear.  There are plenty of videos on youtube illustrating how to drain it yourself.

  1. If you want to take care of the problem yourself:
  2. Drain the liquid with a needle and syringe, may be bought from a local pharmacy.  This may need to be done on a daily basis until no more liquid fills the ear
  3. Apply constant pressure to reattach the skin to the cartilage, some people use a clothespin or noseplug for swimming
  4. Apply ice and a topical anti-inflammatory agent
  5. Take an NSAID to reduce the swelling

Most Importantly Don’t be Stupid
  • Countless time I have seen people show up to the gym and spar like it is the final of the mundials.  Rough and irresponsible sparring leads to greater injuries.  Hard and determined sparring is different than being crazy and stupid.  Sparring safely with your partner is part of training BJJ.  
  • If you are a smaller person know your limits don’t spar with a bigger person just to prove a point, spar with people your own size or slightly bigger until you are comfortable.
  •  If you are a new white belt don’t spar with other new white belts give it 3 months of sparring with color belts.  Don’t spar with that crazy white belt that came in the door let the more experience students educate him on how to spar safely and properly.  
  • No one likes to tap and there is nothing wrong with not tapping easily however not tapping just to prove your "tough" that is a great recipe for a broken bone or other injury.  
  • If you don’t know a submission especially leg attacks don’t try them until a higher belt has explained it to you.

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