Establishing the proper grip is integral to initiating offense in grappling arts, specifically those where jackets are involved such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo and Sambo.

Many matches are won based on who is able to achieve their intended grips to allow for the throw, choke or guard pass. Because grips are so important it is not surprising that many grapplers have a history of finger pains and aches.

Anatomy of the finger: There are three joints of the finger: metacarpophalangeal joint (MCP joint), proximal interphalangeal joint (PIP joint) and distal interphalangeal joint (DIP joint). The joints involved with grip injuries are often the PIP and DIP joints. The volar plate and collateral ligaments help to stabilize the PIP and DIP joints. The volar plate is a ligament on the front of the knuckle to prevent hyperextension and the collateral ligaments are on the sides of the joint to prevent side bending.

Most finger injuries begin with damage to these ligaments: sprains which mean the ligaments are stretched or have partial tears. If the ligament ruptures then dislocations can happen.

Post-traumatic osteoarthritis: With repetitive stress, multiple sprains and/or dislocations the joints will begin to develop arthritis. Signs often begin with stiffness, general aches and restrict movement. As the arthritis progresses there will be increased laxity/instability followed by limited mobility. In the later stages you may notice enlarged joints.

Stay tuned for my next few posts where I will include prevention and rehab strategies. Protect your fingers so you don’t end up the Paulo Miyao!

Dr. Mike Piekarski, DPT
BJJ Brown Belt
Former MMA Fighter