While Jiu Jitsu might translate as ‘the gentle art’, it isn’t that gentle.
Injuries are an unfortunate part of Jiu Jitsu, but what injuries are most common? Elbow injuries.
One article that assessed injuries during several regional Jiu Jitsu competitions, found that the most common site for injury was the elbow (Scoggin 2014), while another article which assessed injuries during one international Jiu Jitsu competition (No-Gi World Championships 2009) found that the elbow was tied with the knee as the most common sites for injury (Kreiswirth 2014).
The most common cause for injury? Armbar.
Second most common cause for injury was from falling on an outstretched arm, i.e. a faulty break fall after a takedown (Scoggin 2014).
Here is my take away message for injury reduction:
Tap to armbars: You still lose if you don’t tap to a submission. Worse now you may have an injury that could prevent you from returning to training. Arm locks may have a large window from the time the submission is applied and when injury occurs, however, when you cannot escape, you should tap.
Learn takedowns: While takedowns are a part of Jiu Jitsu competition, a majority of matches are decided on the ground, therefore most training starts on the mat. It is advisable to practice takedowns. Why learn and practice takedowns if they may be a common cause for injury? If you aren’t practicing takedowns, then you aren’t getting taken down at real speed and aren’t becoming proficient at falling correctly.
Dr. Mike Piekarski, DPT
BJJ Black Belt
Former MMA Fighter
Kreiswirth, Ethan. Myer, Gregory. Rauh, Mitchell. Incidence of Injury among male Brazilian Jiujitsu Fighters at the World Jiu-Jitsu No-GI championship 2009. Journal of Athletic Training. 2014, 49 (1): 89-94.
Scoggin et Al.. Assessment of Injuries During Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Competition. The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. 2014. 2(2):1-7.