Have you ever been bummed after an injury in BJJ? (I raise my hand) If not you're fortunate to have dodged that
bullet, for now at least. For the rest of us getting back on the mats as soon as possible is top priority.
No matter how strong or flexible you are, any athlete who practices Brazilian jiu jitsu is going to
find themselves dealing with some type of injury at one point or another – from beginners to
intermediate and advanced students. BJJ athletes who have suffered injuries aren’t worried about the injury itself – their
concern is more with how much time they’ll need to spend on recovery. While dealing with an
injury and being forced to step back from the mat can be devastating, it’s important to let your
body heal before you resume your regular practice. It’s also important to be cautious when you
finally feel ready to get back to your training, to make sure you don’t risk hurting yourself
further or causing a second injury.
There are two main types of injuries BJJ athletes are likely to suffer – contact injuries and non-
contact injuries. Contact injuries happen during a match with an opponent, like landing on your
shoulder during an aggressive take-down. Non-contact injuries will happen off the mat, like
twisting your ankle or pulling a muscle during a warm-up or other training exercises.
Ensure that you are doing everything in your power to avoid non-contact injuries, which are
more easily prevented, to make any contact injuries you might sustain less severe. Even a minor
injury could keep you away from the sport for a few weeks, which can feel like a lifetime for a
serious BJJ athlete.
Fortunately, there are some tips you can keep in mind as you ease yourself back into the sport
to minimize the amount of time you’ll have to spend away.
Evaluate your injury
Take some time before you come back to the mats to assess the situation that led to your
injury, and consider how you can approach your practice in a different way in the future so that
you can minimize the chance of re-injuring yourself. There are a number of factors that could
lead to an injury, including:
- warming up too quickly or improperly
- insufficient rest
- failure to tap out
- other life stresses that could impact your performance
It’s important that you don’t lie to yourself about these things – if you can identify anything
that could have contributed to your injury, you need to be honest with yourself about it so that
you can learn from your mistakes, instead of repeating them.
Focus on your training
It doesn’t matter what kind of sport you do, it’s easy to spend time practicing what you’re
already good at. However, while it might be less enjoyable, every athlete needs to be sure
they’re investing equal time working on their weaknesses.
For athletes, particularly BJJ athletes, it’s essential to have a balance of strength and mobility. If
you don’t, it might be time to consider a corrective exercise program to achieve a more
balanced practice. This kind of training will help eliminate the pain caused by common
musculoskeletal imbalances and will help in preventing future injuries, and is easy to
incorporate into your regular workout.
Listen to your body
Your training always needs to suit your abilities – especially when you’re recovering from an
injury. Sometimes, you will feel fully healed and ready to get back to your regular practice, but
even though you may have what seems like your full range of motion back, you can’t be sure
until you’ve gotten back on the mat to practice BJJ movements.
It can be tempting to rush your rehabilitation and resume training at your normal intensity, but
if you’re working harder than your body is able to you’ll risk a relapse. Make sure you don’t
overdo it, and back off if you feel any pain. Don’t be afraid to tap out if you need to – you need
to protect your body from injury, and tapping out is an important part of keeping yourself safe.
For your first matches back on the mat after your rehabilitation, work with a partner who you
know and trust. If you try taking on a new opponent, you could easily find yourself injured again
because you weren’t adequately prepared. Practice with someone who will respect that you
are in recovery, and who will support you as you heal.
If you want to keep practicing Brazilian jiu jitsu for years to come, you need to learn early on
how you can successfully return to the mat after an injury – no matter how minor. Compared
with other martial arts training, BJJ athletes tend to suffer fewer injuries, but it’s still important
to learn the right ways to keep from getting hurt and recovering if you do.
Keep in mind that if you feel any pain during a practice, whether you are healing from an injury
or not, you need to slow down and make sure you’re not straining yourself. That doesn’t mean
you can’t train hard – if you’re smart about your training and your practice, and you’ll be able
to enjoy this sport well into the future.
This article was written by Nina Wells.
Courtesy of BJJ.org