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Off-Topic Injuries from BJJ?

lais817

Level 5 Valued Member
I've been contemplating putting both myself (35) and my kids (5&7) into the local BJJ "club", as we all enjoy wrestling and I think it'd do all 3 of us good to develop some confidence and self defence ability.

I see a fair bit of talk here and elsewhere about injuries from BJJ, I'm just wondering if it is actually more likely we'd get injured than traditional sports like soccer, AFL, gymnastics etc, or just the standard horror stories all sports have?

Don't really want to put myself out of action for work / kettlebells with a new hobby is the main part.
 

BJJ Shawn

Level 6 Valued Member
From what I have seen over the years, in the beginning people tend to get injured more often due to not being fully aware of how their own body moves. If you already wrestle, you will likely skip this phase. The next biggest risk is rolling with other unskilled people that can’t control themselves so they collide with you in a multitude of ways. The third biggest risk is your ego and feeling like you don’t want to tap out so you let yourself get injured instead.

By limiting who I roll with to colored belts, I really don’t get injured anymore or see injuries beyond any other sport. The last injury I had was a really bad sprain to my thumb, but it was my own fault and that was several years ago.
 

Rick213

Level 6 Valued Member
As an on and off bjj student, can definitely second @BJJ Shawn: most injuries will come from rolling with other inexperienced players. I can roll with a brown belt for 4 rounds and be submitted multiples times but never be injured, compared to rolling with a spazzy white belt who will elbow, jerk, and scratch for a submission that is not there.
BJJ is amazing and definitely worth trying.
 

Andi-in-BKK

Level 5 Valued Member
I’m 35 and I’ve been training BJJ for almost 7 years. I’ve been injured several times, from arm/shoulder stuff (being stubborn in rolling) to breaking ribs (twice- once at white belt, once at blue, both from fighting a pass a bit too hard when I should have conceded). Injuries to knees and spine are also common, as are finger and toe injuries.

That said, I’m not sure I would have had less injuries from American Football or Soccer.

It is by its nature, a combat sport. You can go 100% against someone grappling regularly unlike boxing or Muay Thai. Injuries are common, and something I’ve come to live with, I’m always sore from something.

There is also the factor of recovery and your MRV being affected for your other lifts. You simply won’t be able to recover from as much Kettlebell or Barbell lifts because your body will also be trying to recover from BJJ.

But I still wholeheartedly recommend getting yourself and kids into BJJ. The change in mental health and confidence cannot be overstated, and far outweigh the risks of injury.
 

John K

Level 7 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Glad Andi and Shawn weighed in. There are quite a few members that have a lot of experience. @Tony Gracia is another who might have something to add, and I think @Mike Torres does a lot of BJJ as well.

My experience, injuries come from a couple main areas:
1. Overuse injuries - sometimes you get put in enough of anything and that joint can start to get irritated, often related to #2 and #3.
2. Not tapping soon enough - tap early, tap often (during training)
3. Overly aggressive partners - learn who is a good relaxed roll and who are "hunting"
4. Accidents - it happens, like in any sport

Most of this can be solved by communicating with your partner. I rolled with a guy for a while that had an elbow that was giving him some grief, so whenever I targeted that elbow or arm, I was "gentle" and eased into anything rather than just throwing something on. Maybe I miss a submission, but taking care of your training partner is more important.

Also, keep in mind, that a lot of people "match" their partners intensity. So the harder you go - the harder they go. If you want an easy roll, communicate with your partner, and then dial your intensity down. It is hard to get hurt "flow rolling."

A lot of classes (for both BJJ and other combat sports) are divided up into drills/technique work, flow rolling/light sparring, and then usually optional open mat/harder sparring. The first two are often not where injuries happen, in my experience. Be selective with your open mat partners, and watch your intensity.
 

wespom9

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Did BJJ myself for 6 months. I like to think I have good body awareness, but as a beginner I was more likely to injure someone else than get hurt myself. Would love to get back to it one day but just too many other things going on.

Obviously with submissions, it can get dicey quick. Beginners haven't learned how much pressure to apply. Beginners tend to get excited when they are close to submitting, and forget to let go on the tap/keep cranking. I'm sure I did it too.

My advice:
"tap early, tap often"
get mobile. If you aren't mobile, more likely to strain/sprain something

EDIT: haha I see I was already beaten with the tap early and often comment. Goes to show how important it is!
 

jtsang

Level 6 Valued Member
Hello friend,

I am excited you and your family are interested in giving Jiu Jitsu a try! It is a major passion of mine and encourage everyone to give it a try.

I have been training since 2008 so I have a bit of experience. I have also ran my own school for a short duration, worked as a coach at a school, and now run a small not for profit club. From my experience the people you train with, and the style of training contribute greater to opportunity for injury. The proudest accolade I have is that my current club has a 0% injury rate, operating for nearly a year now. I attribute this to the training community as well as training model we use. We are an invitation only club that requires unanimous consent on admitting new members. We employ a technique drilling and constraint drilling model for most training sessions with very limited sparring.

I would visit a few classes at different clubs local to you and review your experience. How do they treat new and prospective students? Are they eager to get you signed up and rolling for lunch money ASAP? Do they take the time to interview you, explore your training background and goals? In my experience this shows a lot about the school and where their priorities are.

In terms of class structure and training, are they partnering people up randomly or are they pairing based on skill and size levels. Are they having you drill for 'reps' or for feel and actual skill acquisition. How much open rolling do they employ? Everyone loves fighting like they're homeless, but it is generally not the most efficient way to improve your Jiu Jitsu.

Just my $0.02, hope it is helpful :)
 

Hrungnir

Level 2 Valued Member
I have been grappling for a long time (15 years), there is definitely a high injury risk. No need to sugar coat it. In my time grappling I have had three LCL sprains, an MCL sprain, torn meniscus, my elbow has been sprained countless times, MRSA three times, staph a good deal more and my neck is a house of cards that cracks if I glance over too quickly.

With that said, I’ve always enjoyed it and returned to it. But old grapplers will have knee problems, it comes with the territory. Asking grapplers advice on whether to do the sport is akin to asking a pothead if marijuana is good or a Latter Day Saint the virtues of Mormonism. You’re gonna get an indoctrinated response lol.

Try it, it’s fun and you’ll enjoy it but you will at some point stack up injuries if you stick with the sport.
 

Mike Torres

Level 6 Valued Member
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Great answers and advice in here.

For what it’s worth, my instructor is a 3rd degree black belt and has been training and teaching for 20 years — and he has never had a catastrophic injury. You *will* tweak things, sometimes frequently, but it’s not a given that you will get badly injured (i.e. requiring surgery, being off the mats for 6+ months, etc.) Of course, anything can happen in BJJ so your mileage may vary,

I have followed one rule and it has made a big difference for me: if I can’t move safely, I wait to move.

It’s more important for me to stay on the mats than it is to win a roll in training. I see people every day contorting their bodies in unsafe ways - allowing themselves to get stacked while still trying to apply the triangle, breaking their fall by putting their hand down with a straight arm, wrestling up from awkward positions, trying to fight out of a locked up kimura, etc.

I simply always wait until I can move with integrity - which I learned over many years of moving things under load with the StrongFirst principles (heavy getups, carries, etc.) It means silencing the ego, disconnecting from the outcome, and being very patient… which people do tend to struggle with.
 

Tony Gracia

Level 6 Valued Member
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
One could probably write a book on this (in fact one of my recent podcast episodes was 90min on nearly this exact topic), but I'll try to keep this on the short side:

Quick about me:
  • 2nd degree BJJ black belt; trained since 2003
  • I also own and am head instructor of a BJJ academy which I've had since 2013, so I bring not only my perspective as a practitioner, but also what I've seen of my students
Over my years I have only had two injuries that I can recall that have kept me off the mat for more than a week or so. Both of them were in fairly intense training leading up to international competition. I can't think of any true "injury" I have had during normal training / out of a training camp - yes, you'll get tweaks and things, but they have always been something I can work around.

As an instructor I can only recall two instances of people getting injured from not tapping to a submission in training (both were Americana locks fwiw). I think the "tap early, tap often" advice is of course good, but I also think that submissions going too far and resulting in injury are actually very few and far between, especially in training (as opposed to competition). Most injuries happen from "uncontrolled falling bodyweight" (term borrowed from John Danaher for those who are familiar with him). My worst injury I've had was a result of that, and most of the bad ones I know of are similar.

All that said, if you consider my nearly 20 years of training and only having two significant injuries that is not a bad ratio. Since the OP mentioned soccer as an example, last I heard it actually has the most injuries per hour of participation of any major sport.

So, is there a risk of injury? Of course. Is it higher than the other sports you mentioned? I doubt it.
 

lais817

Level 5 Valued Member
Thanks everyone for your responses, I knew I could count on strongfirst folk to give some honest feedback. The tap early, tap often theme seems pretty prevalent and makes sense, at least in a training setting.

I'd read a few other things which backed up most of what everyone has said, so it was good to see them validated.

Re the skin infections etc, is that mainly down to everybody else training keeping on top of their personal hygiene, or more due to the nature of constant small skin injuries and the sweaty environment?
 

Mike Torres

Level 6 Valued Member
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Thanks everyone for your responses, I knew I could count on strongfirst folk to give some honest feedback. The tap early, tap often theme seems pretty prevalent and makes sense, at least in a training setting.

I'd read a few other things which backed up most of what everyone has said, so it was good to see them validated.

Re the skin infections etc, is that mainly down to everybody else training keeping on top of their personal hygiene, or more due to the nature of constant small skin injuries and the sweaty environment?
Skin infections aren't my area of expertise (thankfully!) but I have been blown away by how many people need to be told to 1) wash their gi and rashguard immediately after training, 2) wash their belts (YES, you need to wash your belt!), 3) shower immediately after training, 4) wear shoes off the mats, and never on the mats, 5) don't train if you have a skin infection of any kind, etc.

Some academies take it seriously, and some don't. Find one that does ;)
 

John K

Level 7 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Skin infections aren't my area of expertise (thankfully!) but I have been blown away by how many people need to be told to 1) wash their gi and rashguard immediately after training, 2) wash their belts (YES, you need to wash your belt!), 3) shower immediately after training, 4) wear shoes off the mats, and never on the mats, 5) don't train if you have a skin infection of any kind, etc.

Some academies take it seriously, and some don't. Find one that does ;)
Huh. I had always thought it had more to do with the mat cleaning the gym did.
 

Andi-in-BKK

Level 5 Valued Member
Hello friend,

I am excited you and your family are interested in giving Jiu Jitsu a try! It is a major passion of mine and encourage everyone to give it a try.

I have been training since 2008 so I have a bit of experience. I have also ran my own school for a short duration, worked as a coach at a school, and now run a small not for profit club. From my experience the people you train with, and the style of training contribute greater to opportunity for injury. The proudest accolade I have is that my current club has a 0% injury rate, operating for nearly a year now. I attribute this to the training community as well as training model we use. We are an invitation only club that requires unanimous consent on admitting new members. We employ a technique drilling and constraint drilling model for most training sessions with very limited sparring.

I would visit a few classes at different clubs local to you and review your experience. How do they treat new and prospective students? Are they eager to get you signed up and rolling for lunch money ASAP? Do they take the time to interview you, explore your training background and goals? In my experience this shows a lot about the school and where their priorities are.

In terms of class structure and training, are they partnering people up randomly or are they pairing based on skill and size levels. Are they having you drill for 'reps' or for feel and actual skill acquisition. How much open rolling do they employ? Everyone loves fighting like they're homeless, but it is generally not the most efficient way to improve your Jiu Jitsu.

Just my $0.02, hope it is helpful :)
Regarding your club’s training methodology:

A few years ago I would have disagreed with the limited rolling philosophy (because rolling is fun!) but now two things have happened: 1) I’ve experienced a gym where a large emphasis is placed on positional sparring every position covered (even the “sporty” ones like rolling back take and different lapel guards) and I’ve seen a monumental leap in my own personal technique. 2) Have been volunteering to run a small fundamentals club at a local high school. I’ve been trying to introduce both sides of a position as well as a handful of techniques and concepts from each side then devote time to making them work with the position. That has really payed dividends with no student having been injured since we started training around Christmas of 2020. And when they are finally ready to roll, they have experienced all of the positions and have a solid road map for what their goals and dangers are.
 

jtsang

Level 6 Valued Member
Regarding your club’s training methodology:

A few years ago I would have disagreed with the limited rolling philosophy (because rolling is fun!) but now two things have happened: 1) I’ve experienced a gym where a large emphasis is placed on positional sparring every position covered (even the “sporty” ones like rolling back take and different lapel guards) and I’ve seen a monumental leap in my own personal technique. 2) Have been volunteering to run a small fundamentals club at a local high school. I’ve been trying to introduce both sides of a position as well as a handful of techniques and concepts from each side then devote time to making them work with the position. That has really payed dividends with no student having been injured since we started training around Christmas of 2020. And when they are finally ready to roll, they have experienced all of the positions and have a solid road map for what their goals and dangers are.
sounds like a great thing you have going on :D
 

lais817

Level 5 Valued Member
Skin infections aren't my area of expertise (thankfully!) but I have been blown away by how many people need to be told to 1) wash their gi and rashguard immediately after training, 2) wash their belts (YES, you need to wash your belt!), 3) shower immediately after training, 4) wear shoes off the mats, and never on the mats, 5) don't train if you have a skin infection of any kind, etc.

Some academies take it seriously, and some don't. Find one that does ;)
Haha, easy as that then. Thanks Mike
 

Pantrolyx

Level 5 Valued Member
Obviously, injuries may occur in any contact sport, inlcuding one that essentially rewards bending joints in the "wrong" direction, blocking the airflow to the opponents brain etc. As it has been brilliantly explained in this thread, a healthy gym culture and a controlled ego will take you very far in preventing bad injuries from happening, while enjoying the endless learning and fun that the sport provides. But there is no point being in denial: Aching joints everywhere and a sore neck will happen from time to time. In my experience, though, playing football (soccer) at a low lever causes acutal injuries at a much higher frequency.
 
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