Injury can have a debilitating effect on the BJJ practitioner. We’ll be going over the most common injuries, high risk positions and how to stay safe.
This is probably not the first article you’ve run into or read when it comes to injury. Typically the first thing you’ll run into is WARM UP and STRETCH. There’s definite merit to these two, but remember, this is a combat sport that involves two bodies moving in unison and sometimes in discord with arms, legs and neck protruding and headed towards the ground. A stretch and a warm up don’t do us much good then.
The third thing that people of experience would recommend is weight lifting. Sometimes weights are frowned upon by the local Jiu-Juitero. You’ve got to do Jiu-Jitsu do get better at Jiu-Jitsu. That’s what they’ll hit you with. But, weight lifting will definitely insulate you from injury in a way that stretching won’t.
You’d best focus on the muscle groups that surround the joints that are most prone to injury. We’ll go ahead and tell you with absolute certainty that your neck is what you should take care of with greatest scrutiny. Neck injury is the absolute worst thing that can happen to you. Personally, I’d rather die than end up in a wheelchair. Most injuries however are not that bad. It’d take an extremely bad angle and persistence on your part in basing with your forehead to get to that point.
The best exercise for the neck is just turtle-necking without support while on your back. You’d do this by default anyway. Open guard, you’ve probably got your head looking at your opponent anyway. This’ll turn your neck into a tree trunk. Wrestlers have their own neck support exercise system. They’ll typically do bridges going as far as posting with their forehead. There have been some studies however that have associated these exercises with back pain and spine injury.
Risk Situations (Neck)
The most common risk position you’ll find yourself in concerning the neck is the stack. You go for the armbar. Opponent turns into a genie and drives into you putting pressure on your neck. You’ll need the backwards roll to get out of this. Don’t be stubborn. Let go if there’s too much pressure, especially with really heavy partners.
Other than that, the worst thing that could possibly happen is the head spike. You’re in turtle position. Opponent picks you up and lands you on your head. Keep your arms free so you can point your elbows at the ground instead of your head. Same goes with throws from standing. Work on your breakfalls so you can even help your opponent rotate you so as not to land on your neck.
Risk Situations (Knee)
Knee injuries are the most common injury that’ll put you away for a significant amount of time. It doesn’t go away as easily as other injuries and it’ll definitely interfere with your everyday life because of the fact that we use our legs for walking.
Chances are you’ll pop a knee in a knee reap, botched foot-lock, De La Riva, rubber guard maybe. They’re not so bad though. The worst type of injury happens with falling weight involved, often from standing: jumping guard, scissor takedowns, flying submissions and the like. Trouble is they don’t telegraph. Too much weight on one foot can also put pressure on your knee ligaments. There’s four of these. They stabilize the knee from the sides and they don’t heal nearly as fast and easy as other injuries.
From a mechanical perspective, the best thing you can do is strengthen your quads, glutes and hamstrings with lots of squats, horse stance, leg press, kicks etc. Get yourself into a gym. Train the hell out of your legs.
On the other hand, the best thing you can do is stay square with your opponent. Don’t leave your leg out sideways. Don’t plant your feet. If he really wants to throw you. Give it to them. In a summary, keep caution at the front of your mind whenever you do stand-up grappling. Jiu-Jitsu itself is not as risky as the stand-up game.