Common Injuries in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and How to Avoid them

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or BJJ is a form of Martial Arts where grappling is prevalent. In this game, the opponent uses locks and chokes to acquire submission from the opponent. Locks and chokes are usually applied on very sensitive areas especially near the neck region, on the arm, legs, and other places.

Usually, for applying chokes you are required to block the air passage or the blood flow. This means that the slightest neglect on the part of the opponent can push you in the lap of death. Similar is the case in applying locks because the opponent will be putting your feet, legs, shoulder, and arms in a lock. This means the slightest tug on the wrong muscles or a little bit more pressure on the tendons can permanently damage your muscles or bones. Even if we talk about the exposed parts of the body such as the nose, neck, and, ears, they are equally prone to serious injury.

If you have seen a BJJ match, you might have seen bruised eyes, swollen and bloodied nose along with cauliflower ears. All these conditions are pretty common. Some players even bleed and faint at the spot. To help in case of injury, most people will tell you to wear protective gear. For better understanding, you need to know the importance of protective gears and their types as well. However, you also need to know how dangerous BJJ is and what you need to do about it. We have explained some of the most common injuries. These injuries will help you know what you should do to protect yourself. Apart from this, we have also discussed what you should do in case you end up injuring yourself.

Types of Injuries

Based on the injured parts and their handling, injuries can be divided into two main types. In BJJ,  you may either end up pulling or bursting a muscle or end up feeling a strain on the ligament, tendon, or nerve. Handling both kinds of injuries is quite different. Most people think about broken or displaced bones. However, there are very few cases where you will hear a bone pop or see a broken bone. For the remainder, we have explained them briefly.

Muscle Injury

This is the most common type of injury and pretty painful as well. Mostly the damage done in this case is localized so it is easier to heal a muscle injury. A simple example of muscle injury is the pulling of back muscle. The muscle with the tug has to face a strain and with proper care, it will heal eventually. This usually takes from a few weeks to a few months.

Ligaments, tendons, or nerves injury

A rather serious kind of injury occurs when the strain is on a nerve, ligament, or tendon. Tendons and ligaments are used for joining the muscle to the flesh or two muscles together. So, it is more painful and more difficult to heal. One of the simple cases of this kind of injury occurs when a person overstretches his elbow or knee and he ends up straining the muscle. In this case, injury is not too painful but this later results in more injuries and then takes a few months to heal.

Common Injuries, Their Reasons and Ways to Avoid

Ear Injury

Causes: aggressive grappling and shooting

One of the very famous ear injuries is the cauliflower ear, where you will see the swelling in the soft cartilage bone. It is a common misconception that there is no way to avoid cauliflower ear because they are so common that people use them as an indicator to recognize wrestlers and grapplers. Our ear has a soft bone or cartilage, when someone ends up tearing the cartilage that’s when your ear injury happens. Usually, it happens when the opponent smacks too hard, rams the head into the ear, or yanks it. Blood rushes to the ear and it then solidifies into the ear.

What to do?

If it happens, don’t stop there, drain the blood from the ear. Most people let it sit and heal but this is not something that will heal on its own. With drain, you will remove the stagnant blood and oxygenated blood will come. This speeds up the healing process and reduces pain.

How to avoid it?

  • To avoid ear injury, wear headgear. Even if you don’t want to wear it, keep it in your gym bag.
  • Another important thing is to avoid being too aggressive during the fight and act strategically.

Lower Back Injury

Causes: Shallow stacking, spinal twists, and hyperextension

Lower back injuries are quite common in BJJ. Especially if we try to understand the region specifically, we will see that a lot of injuries are limited to the pelvic region. Most fighters face pelvic injury when they are at the bottom in full guard. It is easier to understand because most of the fighters use their pelvic muscles a lot. Usually, when the opponent is bulkier and heavier, the body doesn’t bear the weight. Sometimes the opponent even ends up yanking the individual. You might even end up pulling your muscles or cause or cause a disc slip.

What to do?

There is no hard and fast rule about this injury. It is common because there is no other way to distribute your body weight rather than supporting it with your pelvic area. Another important thing is to go to the doctor because disk slip is very common in these kinds of accidents. The best solution is acupuncture or physiotherapy. This helps in relieving pain and speed up the healing as well.

How to avoid it?

There is no gear for this kind of injury. However, you need to stay cautious at every given point and try to not lift the weight of others’ bodies.

Neck injury

Causes: Deep stacking, neck cranks, and head ram

Neck injuries are quite common, they happen usually when the position is awkward while fighting. Usually, when someone is stuck in a cock and they try to find an escape, this happens. Escaping a headlock is pretty basic, but when you are stuck in a headlock, it becomes difficult to understand what to do. Most people try to yank their necks out of it. Some even try to roll their neck to improve their position.

What to do?

Determine if it is a muscular injury or a disc slip. Try turning your head, if you can’t turn it this is a muscle injury. However, if you feel a thumping pain in your arm and finger you have damaged the disk. The nerve pain or disc slip should be taken directly to the doctor.

How to avoid it?

Yanking your neck will not set you free. Try to stay calm and devise a way to get out. Don’t pull something and if you feel pressure or the lock is putting too much strain, try moving first.

Knees Injury

Causes: Leg locks, overextensions

Knee injury is not very common because most people don’t try leg locks. However, in professional games, leg locks are pretty common and hence, knee injuries are also common. Usually, a muscle knee injury happens when one person comes down very hard and ends up injuring himself. Ligament injuries are more common because they happen due to hyperextension or extra joint pressure.

What to do?

Usually, knee injuries are painful but they heal easily. Tears of ligament however can be pretty difficult to heal. In case of a partial tear, the process of healing can be easier, however, in case of full tear, surgery is required. This also means that you need months of rest and a year of rehabilitation.

How to avoid it?

Wear knee pads, they will help in limiting the extension and provide enough cushion to avoid any direct slam even if you come straight down on the mat.


Causes: Shooting and arm locks.

Shoulder injuries are common because most people are not aware of the basic posture. They don’t keep their elbows close and they keep arms hanging on the sides. As a result, arm attacks get common because they lose their hands and are vulnerable to attack. In the case of resistance, the pressure gets even easier. Another very important issue is when the opponent gets too aggressive and sprawls far. The weight on the shoulder gets worse and usually, the fighter falls.

What to do?

For the shoulder injury, things might get quite complicated. One of the main issues is that the shoulder helps with the generation of energy so you need to stay alert. In case of pain, keep the arms close and go to the doctor.

How to avoid it?

  • Wear protective gear.
  • Arm pads and hand pads are very important
  • Keep your arms closer to the chest and shoulder region.
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