5 Ways to Treat BJJ Knee Injuries
Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) has gained tremendous popularity as a martial arts discipline over the past 25 years. Its close relationship with UFC and MMA has caused it to grow from a little-known martial art to an integral component of modern sparring disciplines. As with any sparring martial arts practice, there is a risk of injury.
Practitioners of BJJ are especially susceptible to knee injuries due to the style of combat practiced. Many common holds and moves utilize submission grappling to place opponents in joint locks. These moves place tremendous strain on ligaments and muscles in the joint and can lead to many different injuries.
Common BJJ Knee Injuries
BJJ sparring and combat are high-risk activities. Because joint locks and submission holds are commonly used moves, the knees are particularly vulnerable. Holds like the Heel Hook and the Knee Bar put tremendous strain on the knee of the opponent, and moves like the Rubber Guard put stress on the knee of the combatant applying the move.
Some of the most common BJJ knee injuries are:
- Strained ligaments
- ACL sprain or tear
- MCL sprain or tear
- LCL sprain or tear
- Meniscus tear
Knee Injury Prevention
Part of your training should focus on strengthening and conditioning your knees. This includes flexibility and stretching too. Yoga can help you stretch and strengthen ligaments and muscles to give you increased flexibility.
Your knees aren’t isolated joints. Your quads, hamstrings, calves, and hips all play a part in the health of your knee. Squats, lunges, side plank, and hamstring curls can help you build strength and structural integrity.
Treating Knee Pain
Taking steps to prevent knee injury is an important part of your training. However, every time you step on the mat, you put yourself in harm’s way. Mild to moderate knee pain is not uncommon for BJJ grapplers. Most minor knee injuries can be treated at home, but more serious knee injuries require immediate medical attention.
Here, we’ll cover five ways you can treat knee pain.
Sometimes rest is the best medicine. BJJ knee pain can be caused by numerous factors—overuse, inflammation, or even injury. Taking a break from normal activity, not overworking your knee, and spending a few days away from the dojo can often alleviate the symptoms.
Rest allows your body to do what it does best—heal itself. Inflamed tendons and ligaments are at risk of further injury during normal use. Even worse, not resting can make a mild injury even worse.
Elevating the knee can help reduce swelling and inflammation and give the body time to heal. Propping your leg on a pillow can ease minor pain and swelling. Listen to your body and don’t overwork, over-train, or attempt moves you can’t complete.
2. Ice Therapy
Ice is a good treatment for knee pain. That’s because it reduces pain and decreases inflammation. There are many options for reusable ice packs designed for use on joints. A bag of ice wrapped in a towel will work just as well.
Combined with rest, ice therapy helps alleviate swelling and allows for proper joint tracking. Not only that, it feels great after a hard, rewarding workout. You can even use ice therapy as part of your everyday training as it helps prevent inflammation and reduces the risk of further injury.
Limit ice therapy treatments to about 20 minutes a session. Any longer and you run the risk of damaging the skin or nerves.
3. Knee Braces
The best way to treat mild BJJ knee injuries is with a knee brace. Knee braces encourage proper tracking and movement, reduce inflammation, and alleviate pain. What’s more, there are many knee options to help you find the ideal amount of treatment and range of motion.
Compression braces aid healing by increasing blood circulation, regulating body temperature, and encouraging proper knee tracking. They can help reduce soreness, alleviate knee pain, and even improve performance. Many professional athletes can be seen wearing compression sleeves when competing.
Hinged braces use a hinged skeletal structure to provide maximum therapy and minimize further injury. These braces provide ideal protection for day-to-day activities and sports. They can also help provide stabilization to mild ligament and meniscus injuries.
4. Anti-inflammatories and Injections
Use of mild analgesics and anti-inflammatories can help alleviate BJJ knee pain. Pain relievers reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation. However, they can also mask serious injury by eliminating pain and cause the athlete to return to action too soon and risk further injury. Use pain relievers and anti-inflammatories responsibly.
For more serious BJJ knee injuries, you may need to receive injections to manage knee pain. If a doctor feels your knee injury is serious but doesn’t require surgery, you may be a candidate for injections to reduce pain and inflammation. Corticosteroid injections can provide relief from pain for up to 6 months.
Some knee injuries are severe enough to require surgery to repair damage, alleviate pain, and reduce inflammation. Tendon, ligament, and meniscus repair or reconstruction are among the most common knee surgeries.
Knee surgeries can take athletes off their feet for months or even years and can sometimes be career ending. Your doctor will discuss the best treatment option for your injury. If you do require surgery you most likely need rehabilitation and therapy to help you regain strength, flexibility, and movement.
Protect Your Knee
BJJ is a popular discipline that offers many health benefits. Just like with all physical activity, it comes with some risk. BJJ knee injuries are common among grapplers. You can minimize your risk of knee injury by focusing on strength training, flexibility, and rehabilitation. Using ice therapy and knee braces to encourage proper movement will give you a stronger more stable knee.