Is BJJ Dangerous? Let’s Find Out

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a relatively safe Martial Art for the overwhelming majority. But it does come with some inherent risks.

BJJ is a fantastic sport and has risen to popularity due to the UFC over the last few years. For those of you who don’t know, it is a grappling-based Martial Art.

Martial Arts such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are physically demanding and will have your body feeling sore quite often, so you need to be careful.

Although it is extremely effective as a form of self-defense, it is a combat sport after all, and the risk for injury is always there for BJJ practitioners.

I will go over the common BJJ injuries that you could sustain whilst training and how you can hopefully avoid them.

Below are some of the things you need to be aware of if you want train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Most common injuries in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Let’s talk about the bumps and bruises that come with my favorite sport. Unfortunately, this is why some people quit BJJ, and I have experienced quite a few of these injuries training Jiu-Jitsu.

I hope your journey isn’t as plagued with them as mine has been.

Joint Trouble: You might run into joint injuries, especially in spots like elbows, shoulders, knees, and ankles.

Muscle Mishaps: All those cool twists and turns can sometimes lead to muscle and ligament sprains and strains. It’s like a workout for your muscles, but sometimes they protest.

Battle of the Bruises: Since BJJ involves getting up close and personal, expect a few battle scars like bruises and contusions. Shins and forearms often take the hit in those intense clashes.

Fractures: Fractures aren’t as common, but they can happen if someone gets a bit too enthusiastic when they put you in a joint lock.

Cauliflower Ear: Don’t be surprised if your ear starts to resemble an ugly cauliflower. it’s the result of repeated ear trauma that is caused when you roll around on the floor grinding your face into the mat several times a week.

Back and Neck Soreness: Those Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu moves can be tough on your back and neck. Strains, sprains, and even more serious spinal stuff can happen if we’re not careful.

I suffer from back issues to this day, and practicing correct posture has helped. Thankfully, neck injuries haven’t been an issue for me.

Tendonitis Woes: Overdoing certain moves can leave you with tendonitis, especially in spots like wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Ouch, again!

Muscle Imbalances: Just like any sport, we can end up with wonky muscle imbalances from playing favorites with certain moves. And that can lead to some long-term problems.

Now, injury chances aren’t the same for everyone. Your experience level, how hard you train, and the quality of your coaching all play a role.

To dodge some of these injuries, remember to warm up before BJJ training, stretch it out, get in some good conditioning, and perfect your technique.

Master Nutrition, Conditioning, and Injury Prevention

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The Science On Common BJJ Injuries

Researchers did some digging to figure out what common injuries folks get while training BJJ.

So, BJJ is all about groundwork, joint locks, and chokes. So, these researchers wanted to know how often folks get banged up, and the injury rates.

How They Did It: They shot out a survey with 27 questions to 166 BJJ gyms in the US. They asked about stuff like age, gender, how often you’re in the ring, and any battle scars you’ve collected.

Who’s Who: Most folks who answered were white dudes around 30 years old, and it turns out, that hands and fingers, feet and toes, and arms and elbows are the usual suspects for getting hurt during BJJ.

Doc’s Notes: Some injuries needed a doctor’s touch, like skin infections, knee twinges, and toe troubles.

DIY Diagnoses: Other times, BJJ practitioners patched themselves up. Common ones? Hand and finger scrapes, arm and elbow aches, and foot and toe gripes.

Bad vs. Not-So-Bad: It seems arm issues are a bit more common but less harsh compared to leg problems. Legs have it worse when it comes to serious injuries.

This whole study gives us the scoop on what kind of injuries BJJ practitioners are likely to pick up. So, if you’re into BJJ, this info’s good to know. Coaches, doctors, and fighters can all learn a thing or two from this research to keep the sport safe and sound.

What Belt Level Is The Riskiest?

As a white belt, you are the biggest risk on the mat, to both yourself and training partners. Don’t take that personally if you are just getting started, but you don’t know how to move your body correctly yet.

You don’t understand the mechanics of many of the moves taught in class. You do not understand the risks associated with certain positions you find yourself in, if you get people in various leg locks and heel hooks, you might turn the wrong way and cause ACL tears.

You don’t yet understand how to keep your training partners safe, but that’s okay, we all start here. You are basically the clumsy new coworker, and that’s fine.

Practicing BJJ is how you get better, like anything else in life so put the mat time in!

Skin Infections

Scientists have checked out skin infections in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and there are a few you need to be aware of. You need to take care of yourself and your training partners, and the number one thing you can do to prevent these issues is practicing good hygiene,(I will touch on this later.)

Ringworm and Fungal Fun:

Yep, fungal infections like ringworms love hanging out in contact sports. When you’re up close and personal and sharing gear, it’s like a party for these guys. Docs talk about this in medical papers and sports guides.

Bacterial Bumps:

Bacteria causing skin infections? Totally a thing. In contact sports, things like impetigo and staph infections (sounds scarier than it is) can pop up. These bugs spread through skin-to-skin contact.

Play Defense:

Taking a shower after training BJJ, cleaning your gear after use, and taking care of yourself can dial down the risk of skin infections. This info is in research papers, dermatology tips, and guides from sports medicine peeps.

Injury Rate Based On Time Training

This study done in 2019, is all about checking out how many people doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu get hurt and where they get hurt. The researchers wanted to see if different factors like how experienced you are, what gear you like, and how you’re trained affect the chance of getting banged up.

Who’s Behind It: The study was done by Christopher Moriarty, Jesse Charnoff, and Elizabeth Roy Felix.

They asked 1287 adults who do BJJ about their injuries in the past 6 months, and about 59% of those folks said they got hurt at least once in 6 months. And guess where they usually got hurt? Knees.

So, bottom line, they looked into BJJ injuries and figured out some cool stuff about how and where people get hurt, and who’s more likely to end up with a few battle scars.

My Knee Injury

A knee injury is a common occurrence at BJJ practice. I had a nasty injury to my knee in 2017 when a training partner execute an ankle pick on me. My knee hyper extended as he drove his shoulder directly into the knee cap.

I had trouble keeping upright as the knee would give out on me for months, I also pulled my hamstring as it was being overworked and compensating for the work my knees couldn’t do to keep me upright.

That was a bad year, and it was diagnosed as a fat pad impingement and I have made a full recovery. It could have been much worse.

What Makes a Difference: They also looked into what factors make a difference in how often people get hurt. Turns out, how long you’ve been doing BJJ, how heavy you are, how many times a week you train, and if you’re an instructor can all play a part.

Experience Matters: The more experienced you are, the more likely you might get a sore back. But if you’re just starting, you might have more trouble with your head, arms, and elbows.

What Doesn’t Matter: Some things like whether you prefer wearing a Gi or not, if you’re taught to fall correctly, or if you’re in a special beginner’s program didn’t really affect the injury risk rate here.

Injury Rate Based On Experience

These researchers wanted to know all about the injuries BJJ athletes go through. They divided them into two groups: the newbies (55 people) and the more experienced ones (53 people).

What They Did: They asked these athletes questions about their injuries. Where did it hurt? How bad was it? And, how the heck did they get hurt? To make sense of the answers, they used some math tricks. If something was super rare (less than 5 times out of 100), they paid extra attention.

The Findings: Both the newbies and the pros said that their knees and shoulders were the troublemakers. But here’s the twist: the newbies got hurt more during practice (54.5%), while the pros got banged up more during real BJJ competitions (66.1%).

They discovered something interesting. When it came to the big joints, the newbies had 70-87% less chance of getting hurt compared to the experienced crew.

In the world of BJJ, it’s pretty common to have knee and shoulder issues. Pros get hurt more during big matches for whatever reason, and on the flip side, newbies get hurt more during practice.

So, whether you’re just starting out or a BJJ veteran, injuries are part of the game. But remember, the way they happen might be different for each crew.

It is not surprising to me to see Knee injuries on this list, as a heap of people I train with suffer from it.

What causes more injuries: BJJ Training Or Competition?

There’s this research study that was done in 2014 about injuries in Brazilian jiu-jitsu matches.

Study Goals: This research had two goals, and the first was they wanted to find out how often folks get hurt in BJJ competitions. Second, it’s diving deep into the kinds of injuries that happen and how they go down during BJJ showdowns.

How They Did It: Researchers did some digging. They took a look at injury info from 8 BJJ tournaments in Hawaii between 2005 and 2011. Medical teams were on the scene, so they had the scoop.

They found out that for every 1000 times people went into matches, there were about 9.2 injuries. That’s a lot of bumps and bruises. Most of the injuries were about bones and joints, like 78% of them. Ribs and cuts needing stitches came next.

Elbows got hurt the most, usually because of the armbar technique.

When they compared BJJ training with other sports like judo, taekwondo, wrestling, and mixed martial arts, BJJ athletes had less risk of getting hurt.

Treating a BJJ injury for the quickest recovery

Depending on how bad it is, you might need to give your body a break from tough rolling sessions to let it recover. You can keep the injured part safe from more strain or hits by using different types of braces, for joints that you can buy at a local pharmacy.

Ice It Up: Put ice on the injury soon after it happens to bring down the swelling and reduce any pain.

Lift It Up: If you can, raise the hurt area above your heart level. This can help reduce swelling by moving fluids away from the injury.

Get Professional Advice: It’s super important to get a pro’s opinion. A doctor or physical therapist can tell how bad your injury is and suggest treatments.

Stay a Little Active: If your doc says it’s cool, try gentle, low-impact activities to boost blood flow without stressing the injury.

Eat Right and Drink Up: Healthy eating helps healing. Also, make sure you’re drinking enough water for a smoother recovery.

Rest and Snooze: Your body fixes itself best when you’re asleep. Make sure you’re getting enough shut-eye to help the recovery process.

After a BJJ injury, when is it safe to return?

In my opinion, you don’t need to stop BJJ training at all after most injuries. If I stopped training BJJ after every niggle I would never get on the mats to do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. You need to work around your injuries on the mat, and if need be don’t roll for a while.

You can still go to class and practice techniques, drill certain positions that you need to work on and develop your game with positional sparring instead.

What a medical professional might say:

Rehabilitation Plan: If your injury needs rehab, stick to the exercises and plan your healthcare peeps suggest. Going back to BJJ too soon could make things worse and keep you healing longer.

Feeling Pain? Wait it Out: Listen to your body. If it’s still hurting, stiff, or not moving like it should during everyday stuff, it’s not quite time for BJJ.

Easy Does It: When you’re good to go, start slow. Do some light moves and drills before diving into full-on sparring. It’ll help you figure out how your body’s doing and cut the risk of getting hurt again.

Stay Smart: After you’re back on the mats, take steps to avoid future injuries. Warm up properly, focus on technique instead of just power, and pay attention to what your body’s telling you during training sessions.

Everyone’s situation is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for when it’s safe to jump back into BJJ after an injury. Your health comes first, so it’s key to team up with medical pros and follow their lead on this one, not my bro science.

Most Martial Arts have risks

Every full-contact Martial Art will pose risks and can potentially be dangerous. In sports such as Muay Thai, you get punched in the face on a regular basis. The concussion risk is huge. That’s a far more dangerous martial art.

Martial arts like Kung Fu don’t pose much risk at all, but it doesn’t work for self-defense, so why bother? Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is great, and as far as self-defense Martial Arts go, Jiu-Jitsu will be the kindest to your body.

I encourage you to get started.

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