Training BJJ and Injuries: What To Do If You Get Hurt

injured handThere’s no escaping the fact Brazilian jiu-jitsu can be a rough activity at times. BJJ and injuries go together like acai and granola.

A contact sport like BJJ means you’ll pick up the odd bump or bruise and these aren’t usually more than an annoyance, but occasionally you will hurt something that becomes either a lingering problem or worse, an impediment to your training.

Often people will try to macho up and train through an injury, only making things worse. The truth is, we often love BJJ too much to stop, so if you’re going to get on the mat anyway then you should do so in a way that doesn’t risk shortening your grappling career.

Here is some advice on what to do if you find yourself injured from people who have been there themselves…

Communicate Your Problems to Your Coach

Lee Wright, a British grappler who was awarded his purple belt in Rio, suffered from a number of problems during his six-month stay in Brazil, including a twisted knee, strained intercostal muscles and tendonitis from playing spider guard. By telling his coach about his issues, he managed to train in a way that didn’t worsen his injuries.

“If I had a injury I would always inform my instructor, Gordo. He is very good at pairing you up so you can be sure if you have a injury you won’t have to worry about getting crushed! I was surprised how helpful the guys are if you are injured, just make yourself clear during class.”

Know When To Stop Rolling

Torryn suggests learning the difference between being hurt and being injured. “Training BJJ you are always going to have a bruised this or sore that – it’s the nature of the game. But an injury is something more serious. When injured your number one goal should be to heal up. Realize what your limitations are and work around them.

Avoiding certain positions may be essential if you're injured

Avoiding certain positions may be essential if you’re injured

“After dislocating my ankle I did a lot of upper body work and specific training. I also made sure to attend every class so I could watch and try to internalize things. While watching other people roll I would ask myself what would I do if I was in that certain situation; and try to notice little details of the techniques.

Avoid Certain Positions… Or Tap

Jiu-jitsu is all about doing unnatural and potentially damaging things to your partner’s body, and though we try to do them as safely as possible sometimes an injury can be aggravated even without intention.

“Herniated discs in my neck meant that I had to change my game completely,” says Hywel. “I changed how I played guard, how I passed, which subs I was going for – everything. I was like being a white belt again as I threw out pretty much everything I’d done for years. I learned that I needed to avoid certain positions, and to tap if I found myself stuck somewhere I knew I would get injured.”

Listen to Medical Advice, Do Your Rehab

Connection Rio sponsored athlete Sean Coates suffered from tendonitis in both elbows, a common problem in BJJ due to playing a heavy grip game.

Sean working his grips

Sean working his grips

“I rested for two weeks and took ibuprofen three times a day, like the doctors advised, but after of couple of days of being back training it was worse than ever,” he says. “So I started looking into longer term solutions which meant not over clenching my hand when I gripped the gi, using my fingers as more of a hook.

“Also I started warming up my grips before training by doing some basic exercises, along with stretching my arms. After a few weeks it completely went away. It still flares up every now and then but I just have to adjust my grip intensity and increase stretching and it eases without relying on ibuprofen.”

Look After Yourself

Tape is the best friend of a grappler; it helps strengthen joints and provide support to weak areas. Knowing how to properly use it can provide a extra level of security in preparation for a tough training session.

In the following video, sports physio and BJJ blue belt Ken Douglas from Australia shows a method of taping the thumb, a commonly injured area in jiu-jitsu.