The Most Common Injuries in Jiu Jitsu

Participation in any sport poses risk of injury. According to WebMD the most common injuries across all sports include ankle sprains, pulled groins, and ACL tears. According to Revere Health, the most common injuries for wrestling also include sprained shoulders and elbows and bursitis in the knee; for basketball, you can expect stress fractures in your feet and legs; and even for zero contact sports like tennis, elbow and shoulder injuries are common.


If you want more information about injuries that are common for people who practice BJJ, check out: McDonald, et. al. 2017


We see in this study that the most common medically diagnosed injury in jiu jitsu isn't to a joint like most others: it's skin infection. Skin infections are common in any activities where there is a lot of skin to skin contact, so it is pretty obvious that skin infections are common in sports like wrestling and jiu jitsu. This is why we take cleanliness so seriously at our gym. I've traveled and visited many gyms, and I am confident in saying that you'd have a hard time finding a mat space cleaner than ours. We vacuum and mop the mats after every session, and we have foot cleaning stations to step through before stepping foot on the mats. Gym cleanliness and personal hygiene do a great job of mitigating skin infections. Showering as soon after class as possible with good soap is essential. We'll have more on personal hygiene to come.


The next two most common medically diagnosed injuries are related to the knees and feet which are the most common among all athletic endeavors combined. As far as self diagnosed injuries are concerned, the most prevalent by far is hand and finger injuries; this is no doubt happening from stubborn grip fighting and fingers getting caught in the jackets traditionally used for BJJ training. However, 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu is all practiced without the traditional jacket, so these kinds of injuries are far less common.


Next on the list is elbows; this is most likely due to the fact that straight arm locks and arm bars, which attack the elbow joint, are a very popular and common submission hold in our sport. I personally have experienced injury in this way, and it was completely avoidable (see my previous post on Avoiding Injuries in Jiu Jitsu for the story). We see from Kreiswirth, et. al. 2014 that elbow injuries happen mostly to white belts, and happen less frequently as people garner more experience before becoming more prevalent again at black belt. This is because with little experience, people tend to wait way too long before tapping to submissions. They think that maybe they can push through or tough it out, or maybe the pain just isn't all that much, so they don't think they need to tap. When we feel pain, it means something is wrong, so tapping before pain is key to avoiding damage to the joint. I think the reason we see a higher frequency of elbow injuries at black belt is skewed by high level competition where there is money and prestige on the line, and the highest levels of the sport, people are willing to risk minor injury to win a match.


See my other post about avoiding injuries for more thoughts on, well… avoiding injuries.

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