Knowledge Over Fear - Dealing With Jiu Jitsu Injuries

Published on by Samantha Faulhaber


Ignorance and fear typically rule the way people deal with Jiu-Jitsu injuries. Some glorify them as a badge of honor, some quit altogether, some take a middle ground and just hope for the best on a wish and a prayer that the body will fix itself. None of these will actually get you out of pain. If it seems like they do you are probably just riding borrowed time before you get the same injury again.

What you can do:

Get professional help.
The cool thing is that the wishers are the closest to having the right idea. You can keep doing what you love to do. The body is amazing and can fix itself most of the time, but it has to be given directions on how to do so. That’s where your interactions with a health professional should come in. Going in without someone to help would be a lot like trying to learn Jiu-Jitsu without a teacher guiding you, right? A lot of awful trial and error and a good chance you’ll hurt yourself more in the process. Get checked out and spend the money on really good quality help because you only have one body and you’d like to be able to use it long after Jiu-Jitsu stops being your favorite thing in the world. Or maybe you’d like to be able to do Jiu-Jitsu as your favorite thing in the world forever. You’ll need a functioning body for that, too.

Increase your knowledge of your body
What do you know about your joints besides approximately when you should tap and which way the thumb should be pointing in an armbar? (hint: it’s not “up”, it’s “the same direction your hips are pointing”). How do your joints feel on a day to day basis? If you have a general answer of “good” or “shitty”, it means there’s a lot more research you can do. It doesn’t even take long. Explore your ranges of motion every day. Figure out what angles things don’t feel good in. Make the angles (all the angles) they do feel good in stronger. A full range of motion body scan every day takes five minutes minimum, feels good, keeps your joints healthy, and gives you a baseline from which to see problems on the horizon instead of when it’s too late. You’ll have fewer and fewer “surprise” injuries or ones that happened “all of a sudden when you weren’t even doing anything”. They’ll still happen, but less. Your self-education will allow you to know what your body is capable of and what angles you need to avoid until they get better. Doing it actively and analytically (slow and controlled) means there will be fewer ranges of motion your body doesn’t understand how to control. When you enter into one of those unfamiliar ranges your body locks down the area to provide stability, just like you tighten up at any danger until it passes. Spasms and tight areas don’t just happen because your body decided to be a jerk. They happen because your body is trying to protect you.

Keep Training (maybe)
Once you know the ranges that feel good, you have the power to control your training in a way that is less likely to hurt you. The more advanced you are the easier this will be. The less ego you have the easier this will be. Say you’ve figured out that you have knee pain if you bend and externally rotate it, but it feels fine when it’s bent but internally rotated. Extension feels fine, too. It looks like you’ll be doing a lot of half-guard and scissor sweeps to one side while you’re working on your healing! If you keep ignoring a wound because it’s inconvenient you can be damn sure it is not going to get better. If you work around it, give up positions that may risk it, and accept it as the main priority of your train to protect it, you have immensely improved your chances of getting better. You may even advance your game because you’re so focused on something besides winning.

Make it stronger
If you do properly rehab an injury, make sure you don’t stop once you feel better. Make that joint/area stronger than it was before you had the injury. Think about it – it wasn’t strong enough to avoid injury in the first place. If you bring it back to that same level and call it normal you’re just as prone to injury as you were before it happened the first time. Instead of avoiding whatever happened to you last time, strengthen the area past what it used to be capable of. Your injury sites and weak points are a direct map to where you should target your workouts if you want to be a more capable human being.

Stay Positive
Just have reason to be so. If you choose to do nothing, you should expect nothing in return or worse. There is always a way to improve. Empower yourself by seeking help from people you have reasons to believe. You shouldn’t be asking blue belts for Jiu-Jitsu advice if you have access to a black belt. You shouldn’t ask your neighbor or Facebook for medical advice unless you’re speaking with someone you have reason to trust. Realize that oftentimes the people most excited to offer advice are the least qualified. Do some homework. Know yourself. Educate your body. Have patience. Stop making it worse. Get better. Even better!