Is Jiu-Jitsu Dangerous?
Jiu-jitsu is a popular form of martial arts that emphasizes takedowns, joint locks, submission holds, and ground fighting. To outside observers, it can appear to be a highly dangerous sport. Unlike other martial arts disciplines that focus on kicking and striking, jiu-jitsu competitors grapple and spar with one another on the mat in an attempt to cause their opponent to submit or tap out.
The violent appearance of jiu-jitsu can make it appear to be a dangerous form of martial arts. However, this is not the reality. With the proper training, form, and equipment, jiu-jitsu can be a safe and enjoyable martial arts discipline.
Lower Risk of Injury Compared to Other Combat Sports
Jiu-jitsu actually has a lower risk of injury compared to most other sparring sports. In fact, in comparison to injury data reported for judo, taekwondo, wrestling, and mixed martial arts, jiu-jitsu competitors are at a “substantially lower risk of injury compared with these other sports.”
Even though jiu-jitsu is not as dangerous as other combat sports, as with all athletics it carries an inherent risk of injury. Here, we’ll cover common jiu-jitsu injuries, how to avoid them, and how to treat them. What’s more, we’ll answer the question, “Is jiu-jitsu dangerous?”
Common Jiu-Jitsu Injuries
Because jiu-jitsu is a combat sport that emphasizes ground fighting, there are plenty of opportunities for injury to occur. Jiu-jitsu injuries aren’t just limited to competition; they can also occur during training.
The most common jiu-jitsu injuries occur at the distal extremities—the hands and fingers and the foot and toes. The next most common jiu-jitsu injuries occur at the arm and elbow and the leg and knee.
Practitioners of jiu-jitsu have different goals when training compared to competing. When training, athletes focus on form and technique. What’s more, they practice the same moves over and over, putting themselves at risk of cumulative injuries that occur over time due to repetitive movement and body stress.
Cumulative injuries are more likely to occur if proper form is not being followed. Improper form can cause irritation and inflammation of ligaments, tendons, and muscles and put them at a greater risk of injury.
Training carries more risk than competition because it takes place much more frequently. Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes train almost four days per week, putting in nearly eight hours of training. However, the same athletes only take part in competition around twice a year. Because training occurs every week, it naturally carries more risk than competition.
The first move in jiu-jitsu is often grabbing the opponent, and that’s why the most common training injuries tend to occur to the hand and fingers. Jammed fingers, hyperextended fingers, and sprained wrists are among the most common.
When considering whether jiu-jitsu is dangerous, a good way to find answers is by looking at competition injury rates. Competition differs from training primarily based on the intensity of sparring. During training the emphasis is on form, technique, and improvement. During competition, the emphasis is on maximum effort and winning. When opponents give maximum effort, it puts bodies at greater risk of injury.
Combatants giving full effort might sound like a recipe for mass injuries, but the injury rate for Brazilian jiu-jitsu matches is actually less than 1%. In fact, the injury rate during matches is 9.2 injuries per 1000 exposures. When injuries do occur during competition, they tend to be most common at the elbow or knee.
Takedowns and armbars during competition put knees and elbows at risk of sprain, strain, or tear. The most common injuries occurring during competition are elbow tenderness or MCL sprain—most of which occur during armbars.
The desire to win often causes competitors to submit or tap out later than they would during training, which increases the risk of injury to the body part in a submission hold. Armbars put extra stress on the elbow increasing the possibility of injury.
The best way to minimize the risk of injury is to focus on prevention. Injury prevention typically includes an emphasis on:
- Strength training
- Proper form and technique
- Cross training
- Diet and hydration
- Proper equipment
To effectively prevent injury, you must include prevention techniques into your training regimen. Stretching, warming up, cooling down, and proper hydration during training will keep your body loose, limber, and ready for action.
You should also incorporate other activities into your training routine. Weight lifting, yoga, swimming, and other forms of exercise will strengthen muscles, ligaments, and tendons you may not use during jiu-jitsu. Cross training will help you maintain a strong, stable body and avoid injuries caused by overuse or instability.
Rest is an often overlooked but incredibly important aspect of your training. You need to give your body time to properly recover to ensure that you don’t incur fatigue-related injuries. What’s more, rest gives your body the time it needs to build strength and endurance.
Using proper equipment will help you practice the correct form and technique. Wraps, elbow sleeves, ankle braces, and knee braces can help encourage proper joint movement, increase blood circulation, speed up healing and recovery time, and even help you manage minor injuries.
If you do experience an injury from jiu-jitsu there are ways to treat it. The best way to treat a minor injury is to rest and give your body time to recover and heal. Ice therapy, athletic wraps, and gentle rehabilitation can help you recover quickly and get back on the mat.
If you do experience an injury that doesn’t get better with rest or worsens, you should seek medical attention.
So, Is Jiu-Jitsu Dangerous?
The short answer is no, jiu-jitsu is not a dangerous martial arts discipline. In fact, it’s less dangerous than many of the most popular disciplines. With proper training, technique, and form, you can minimize the risk of injury. What’s more, focusing on injury prevention during training will give you the best chance to enjoy injury free jiu-jitsu.
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