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The Top 3 Injuries in BJJ and How to Avoid Them

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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu continues to thrive as a combat sport and self-defense system. Roughly translating to ‘the gentle art’, it is one of the least dangerous of the grappling arts in terms of injuries, compared to judo or wrestling, or MMA. Despite this, practitioners train rigorously and injuries are often a part of participating in a contact sport, however, with caution, this can largely be avoided.

Injuries in BJJ are far more likely to occur in training than they are in competition. For this reason, it is of the utmost importance to find a gym that is appropriate for you and your needs. Things like partner suitability, and sparring intensity will all need to be considered before fully committing to a gym. Studies have shown that injuries sustained during training will differ slightly compared to those that occur in competition. However, there is a consistent pattern regarding the most frequently seen areas of injury. 

It is also worth noting that there is a difference between injury and ailment. As a martial artist, it is inevitable that you will experience scratches, bruising, black eyes, and specific to grappling-cauliflower ear. These issues can either be trained around or will require small periods of rest in order to recover. However serious injuries require much more time out and can cause long-term implications. Here are the top 3 injuries seen in BJJ and how best to avoid them:


During the competition, elbows are the most injury-prone area on the body. Sprains to the medial collateral ligament (MCL) by way of armbar are 4 x more common than any other injury. The armbar is also responsible for other sprains to the elbow joint and the most dangerous submission hold in the competition circuit. However, in a class setting, although elbow injuries, especially those caused by hyperextension, are responsible for 10% of injuries, they are not the highest ranking.


Tap. Ignore the ego’s refusal to relinquish a win. It is almost impossible to get out of an armbar and hyperextension of the elbow joint can cause permanent damage. Tap out and fight another day.


Knee injuries can happen for a variety of reasons. Once again, the cause is usually due to hyperextension of the joint which can be due to falling from sweeps or takedowns and by passing guard. In competition, all recorded knee injuries were to the ligaments. In a class setting, meniscus tears are the most prevalent.


Avoid stand-up sparring if possible. This eliminates takedowns and throws that can cause a litany of injuries. Additionally, avoid passing guard in standing position, try to only go on your knees like a ‘double under’ or ‘over under’.

Feet and Hands:

In a competition setting, the third most common injury is sustained to the foot and ankle and hand injuries are also common. Overall, the same perpetrators are to blame: arm bars and takedowns. During training, injuries to the hands and fingers are the most likely to be sustained, with jammed fingers and hyperextension being the top causes.


General strength and conditioning will help to strengthen joints. Exercises such as squats and pushups will build up the muscles around the wrist and ankle, making them less susceptible to injury. Knowing when to tap out will be monumental here as well. There is no point in sustaining a long-term injury that takes months of recovery in the name of a win. 


The best option to avoid injury is to train both the mind and body in preparation for class. Some martial artists have a ‘refuse to lose’ attitude; while this is admirable, it can have serious long-term consequences if it results in not tapping and having a broken or dislocated joint. These types of injuries take months to recover from, requiring physiotherapy and sometimes even surgery. It is equally important to take excellent care of your body outside of class. Supplement your training with conditioning to build a more robust body that is less injury-prone.  

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