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Injury Prevention in Grappling Sports – Part II

Last week, we began our discussion on what we can do to reduce the incidence of injuries in grappling sports. Sports like Jiu Jitsu, the injuries are going to occur, it is the nature of the sport. How often they occur and the severity of them can be impacted by how we respond to an injury initially and what we do on the preventative side to reduce the risk of. Last week, we discussed the importance of having both club owners and athletes to have physicians and physical therapists they can refer to or see who understand the sport. Doctors who will look at conservative forms of treatment when indicated and who will aid the athlete in returning to sport as soon and safely possible. In addition, having a physical therapist who understands the sport, the biomechanics of the mechanism of injury and how to rehab you with sport specific exercises and sequences to get you back on the mat as quickly and safely as possible. Having a physical therapist who understands the strength and endurance demands required for maintaining guard, the range of motion in the hips needed to prevent injury when someone passes your guard or lumbar flexibility needed to prevent low back pain with smash pass. These are all key components to keeping the grappling athlete safe, on the mat and injury free.

Knowing that injuries will occur, getting to them early is a great way to mitigate the impact the injury has on your training and a way that can prevent them from becoming more serious. One way to do this is by setting up injury screens. This is typically a complimentary musculoskeletal assessment provided by an athletic trainer or physical therapist. This is not meant to be an in-depth comprehensive evaluation but more of a screening to help identify small issues before they become larger issues. At the conclusion, the health care provider can provide some recommendations based on what they see and hear from the athlete.

As a physical therapist and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner, this is something that I do on a weekly basis at the facilities I train at. For the gym owner, this is huge. This helps tremendously in member retention. First, with the right health care provider affiliation, the overall experience for the athlete is great. The athlete is able to have their problem identified and be educated on what is going on, given some self help techniques to treat or manage, guidance on what to do if gets worse and provided techniques to keep training while allowing the injury to get better. This kind of experience helps the gym retain athletes that may have quit due to a minor injury that could have been treated and gives the customer a sense that the gym truly cares for the long term health and safety of the athlete. Overall, this means happier customers and better member retention.

Having done this for a while, there are some basic things I have learned by doing screenings and treating BJJ athletes.

  1. If you have an ache or pain that is limiting your training, the sooner you treat it the better. All too often people will let a minor injury nag on without treating it and it becomes more and more of an issue.
  2. Ice, ice baby. If you have an injury, start icing it! 15 min – 3-4 times per day and needs to be cold enough to make you numb in 5 min. Keep up this routine until you can go full rolls without pain or aggravation of the symptoms or injury. This may be a pain in the butt to do but I assure you, you will get back to the mat at 100% faster than if you don’t. Pure and simple. Cautious with too cold as it can burn your skin. *See my note below on making your own gel ice pack*
  3. Don’t stop your training, limit your training to what you can do without exacerbating your pain. If you find that every time you train, your pain is getting worse, you are on a road to sidelining yourself for a long time. If it means going to class and just doing drills or working on technique, then do that. If it means rolling at 40%, then do it. Training without increasing your symptoms makes the tissues stronger and will result in you getting back at 100% faster.
  4. You got to pump some weights! Weight training should be a part of your routine. BJJ is especially a physically taxing sport. If you do not prepare your body for the physical strength demands, cardiovascular demands and endurance demands, you are 10xs more likely to suffer an injury. 10xs! So should not be a question of if but when you start resistance training.

Next week, we will start to dive into education on some of the most common injuries I see and how you can prevent them. Education will be our longest section and is where we will dive into each body part, what are some common injury mechanisms and how do we self treat and prevent. We hope you enjoyed the start of this series. If you did, please share with your colleague and follow us on instagrm @ bjjpt_acl_guy and twitter @acl_prevention. #ViPerformAMI #ACLPlayItSafe

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