Is Jiu-Jitsu Hard on Joints

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This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It does not substitute for having professional advice. 

Disclaimer

It’s important to take care of your body. The last thing you want is to get injured during a training session and not even be able to perform everyday functions without paint. In this article, we’ll go over some info about the long-term and short-term effects of Jiu-Jitsu. 

On average, the long-term effects of Jiu-Jitsu on your joints are positive. Exercise, even done to the extreme is better for your body to show positive results. Risk comes in the form of injuries. For example, A 2014 study looked at a Jiu-Jitsu competition and showed that 9.2 fighters were injured for every 1,000 fights.

Other studies showed that there were different types of injuries between competitions and training. We’ll go over this and more below. 

Chronic vs Acute

When fighters have chronic pain in Jiu-Jitsu, it is most likely due to not taking enough time off to heal or not warming up and stretching. Acute injuries are fairly limited with 9.2 injuries out of every 1,000 fights, that is a fairly low number; however, if you fight for long enough then something is likely to happen. The best thing to do is to stretch and warm up regularly and when you do get injured then take time off to heal. 

Data on Chronic and Acute Joint Health

Although no specific studies have been conducted on chronic injuries in Jiu-Jitsu, parallel studies have been done on the chronic effects of different types of intense exercise. A Harvard Medical School article points out several different studies showing positive consequences more than negative. 

A study was conducted on the residents of Framingham, Mass. The study showed no link between exercise and arthritis of the knee. A study in Australia showed that people that performed the most vigorous weight-bearing exercises had the thickest and healthiest knee cartilage. Another study that followed runners up over a 21 year period, showed that runners experienced significantly less musculoskeletal disability than did their less active peers. One more study showed that impact loads are the most likely to result in injury to articular cartilage. Having more muscle decreases the load and has a protective effect. However, if exercise was done on an injury then this leads to arthritic pain. 

Data on Injuries

There are several studies that have looked at the occurrence of injuries in Jiu-Jitsu both in competition and in training. With each having slightly different numbers for the type and frequency.

A study was conducted on emergency room data from Jiu-Jitsu injuries. It showed that the number one type of injury was from strains and sprains, this was both for grappling and competing. The leading body regions that were injured were the head and arm. This slightly contradicts other data where the elbow was the most reported injury. Most people reported hearing a ‘pop’ before the injury. The injuries to the head, neck, and trunk were from the fighter landing on them or ‘accidentally’ striking them. Teaching proper falling techniques could help avoid this.

Leading Diagnoses

GrapplingCompeting
Strains and Sprains – 26%Strains and Sprains – 39%
Fractures – 22%Fractures – 17%
Other – 17%Other – 14%

Leading Body Regions

GrapplingCompeting
Head – 24%Arm – 31%
Trunk – 20%Shoulder – 30%
Leg – 17%Head – 16%

Healthy Body and Healthy Joints

Exercise is generally good for your health. To avoid having any types of issues be sure your general health is good. If you have an existing problem then be sure to figure out a solution to get rid of or minimize the issue. Look at fitness as a gradual process. Don’t try to rush or force your body to get in better shape. It takes many years. As you exercise just listen to your body. 

Minor Injuries

One thing to look out for with these studies is that they don’t cover minor injuries. Minor injuries typically don’t get reported to injuries. Because of this, there may be a lot of data that isn’t being accounted for. For example, if a fighter gets a finger jammed then how likely are they really to report it to anyone. The most hardcore fighter will probably just tape it then keep on fighting. Because of this, the injury rate is probably a lot higher than what is reported in any given study; however, the general regions and percentages are most likely correct. 

How to Avoid Injuries

  • Use proper form and gear. It doesn’t matter if you’re a pro or it is your first day, make sure you buy the right gear. 
  • Don’t overtrain.
  • Stretch on your off days.
  • Study proper technique on your off days. Which includes visualizing, watching, and reading.
  • Try cross-training or a lower impact exercise on your off days such as swimming.

Functional training can also be a big factor in being able to avoid injury. Functional training will help build up an increased range of motion in your joints. It will also help increase the muscle that you have in your joints which will allow you to be able to get injured at a lot lower rate. 

In conclusion, the data shows that Jiu-Jitsu is more beneficial than not. Most chronic pain comes from training on injured joints, or training too much leading to overuse injuries. Just like anything too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Create a habit of taking days off and warming up before. Watch fights, technique videos, and read to keep yourself growing.

Resources


https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/overuse-injury/art-20045875
https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/exercise-and-your-joints
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6220608/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8594892/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1466853X15000115
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2325967114522184

Origin fighter

Origin Fighter is a blog for athletes and fitness enthusiasts to learn about Jiu-Jitsu, MMA, Wrestling, Boxing, Health & Nutrition, Performance and more. Origin Fighter also provides information on how to train smarter with resources such as workout plans and diets tailored for your goals.

About the Author

I am a tech nerd and love learning about new topics. In my spare time I enjoy learning and training in different martial arts. I also like learning about how to optimize my health and productivity. This blog is a resource to try and provide info about my learnings along the way. Learn More

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