Grapplers Graveyard

Jiu Jitsu Injury


The most common jiu-jitsu injury someone will experience while training is the cauliflower ear. Practicing jiu-jitsu opens up a lot of different possibilities for getting hurt along the way. Injury frequency is usually a case-by-case scenario. There are so many factors related to why someone gets hurt in the first place. In this article, we will discuss common injuries that BJJ practitioners may experience while training the martial art.

jiu jitsu injury - gordon ryan

Common Jiu-Jitsu Injury: What Is Cauliflower Ear?

Cauliflower ear occurs when blood that collects in the outer ear after an injury isn’t drained properly or becomes infected. Most commonly the people who have it get the injury from sports, such as wrestling, boxing, or mixed martial arts.  

Some people may get turned off when they initially see it but if you get it in the martial arts world, it is a badge of honor. Truthfully, we believe the injury is not as gross as some people will make it out to be.

You will get cauliflower ear by not wearing when you train BJJ or wrestling. Your instructor probably has it, maybe some of your teammates are on the cusp of getting it, and all the people in the MMA circuit have it.

Injuries in jiu-jitsu are bound to happen when you get violent with people on the mats. You will know when you are starting to get it. When cauliflower ear starts to form your ears will be sore and they may be very sensitive to touch. When you continue to train without headgear the severity of the injury only gets worse.

common bjj injuries

You can prevent cauliflower ear by wearing while training. Headgear can be uncomfortable to wear at times but if you do not want this injury, it will have to be the sacrifice you make.

Here is a quick list of some ways to prevent Cauliflower Ear:

  1. Don’t train (Why are you here)

  2. Wear headgear

  3. When you get sore ears ice them

  4. Take a break if your ears start to get sore

  5. Use EarSplintz

  6. (Bonus) If you get the deformity, drain it, and use magnets (Or EarSplintz)

It does not affect anything on how the body functions. It may look funky but we would argue that having this ear deformity is a badge of honor.  If you see someone on the street and they have this do not pick a fight with them, you will most likely be fighting someone who is trained!

How Common is Cauliflower Ear in Jiu-Jitsu?

Almost all combat sport athletes will have some cauliflower ear. It is so common for grapplers and people who practice other martial arts to have the ear deformity. We believe that this injury is no big deal, it is part of what you signed up for.

The best way to protect yourself from getting it is to put on headgear when you train. That can be a bit annoying at times so truthfully you can just throw it on when your ears are feeling a bit tender. Wrestlers will have to wear headgear a bit more frequently due to the amount of friction that occurs in the sport.

Is it Possible to Train in BJJ and Not Get Cauliflower Ear?

Yes, it is.

We have very minimal cauliflower ear and train 4 -5 times a week. Sometimes training twice a day. Injury prevention for something like cauliflower ear is easy, just put on the headgear when you get sore ears and you will be okay.

We were personally not comfortable having a completely mangled ear but still wanted enough as a symbol of our hard work on the mats.

jiu jitsu

Risk Factors in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training does not come without its risk.

Just like any other contact sport, you are putting your body on the line. It is important to take your nutrition and recovery very seriously so you can keep yourself on the mats and away from injury.

How to treat a BJJ injury for the quickest recovery

The quickest way to recover is to train and prepare like anything could happen. It is unwise to stop weight training because it leaves room for injuries occurring. If you find yourself injured, whether it is muscle or joint, spend some time with some recovery tools like cold plunging, massage guns, or trying out CBD. If it is severe, you should probably go to a medical professional to get everything checked out and cleared.

Joint Injuries

In no-go BJJ contests, elbow and knee problems are more prevalent. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts have been known to have the most joint issues mainly because most black belts are up in age. It is important to know that anyone at any stage can experience some type of joint injury that takes them out for an extended period of time.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have sore joints or muscles we highly recommend that you start to take recovery very seriously. As you train Brazilian jiu-jitsu you will notice that your body may ache in ways that it never has before. Taking care of your body is something that we are very adamant about especially as a combat sport athlete.

It is necessary that you take the time to still do strength training and workout large muscle groups to lower the risk factors of severe injuries occurring. Spend some time in a cold plunge or sauna after tough training weeks, they have been proven to be great ways to help boost recovery time and help prevent those common injuries.

jiu jitsu injury - Ben Kunzle

Neck Injury

This is a far more serious injury that could possibly occur while training Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Not to scare those that are on the fence of taking on the sport, but this is just a reality of what you may be signing up for. We have written previous articles on how important it is to choose good sparring partners when you are training and this type of injury can be prevented by these small decisions in the gym.

jiu jitsu athlete Ben Kunzle

Now, you cannot always prevent everything and there is a really good, and pretty recent case of a neck injury having widespread reach to those in the community. Ben Kunzle was a very advantaged BJJ fighter and was in preparation for a world championship run when he had a neck injury that left him paralyzed (source). Ben slipped in a spot of sweat and what was supposed to be a clean throw turned into a horrible accident.

Injuries happen all the time in the sports world. Whether it’s novice athletes or advanced athletes, risk factors are always going to be there when you are putting your body on the line. Combat sports is not for the faint of heart but there are many ways to keep the injury rate low by taking injury prevention very seriously.

jiu jitsu - Ben Kunzle

CBD, proper supplementation, proper nutrition, weight lifting, cold plunging, and spending time in the sauna are great ways to keep yourself fresh. Neck injuries are not common but some soreness can occur if you get caught in any kind of crank or guillotine.

Shoulder Injuries

Most injuries that occur in a BJJ gym are from those that stay too long in submissions and do not tap out right away or when someone jerks (or spazzes) into a position a bit too quickly. A common culprit of the injured tone is typically the arm of the shoulder.

Someone can jerk into a kimura, omaplata, or even an arm bar very quickly or aggressively and cause some serious injuries if you are not safe. Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes need to pick who they train with wisely. There is an intimate level of trust you have with training partners that sometimes is hard to gauge when you train with someone new. Always be aware of who you decide to trust in the gym because not everyone is trustworthy with your body.

injuries sustained deserve physical therapy

Ankle/Foot Injuries

These are probably the scariest injuries to watch. Whenever we see someone going for a heel hook or an ankle lock we cannot help but look away. We have seen too many videos surface on the internet of people letting their egos get in the way and staying too long in these submissions just to have their ankles or foot pop out of place. Makes us want to throw up just thinking about it…

Heel hooks are the new meta of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu competition world right now. It is known that heel hooks are a direct attack to the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and not submitting to this submission can lead to gnarly knee injuries. Severe injuries like an MCL or ACL should be taken up by a medical professional. The healing process for injuries like this is typically up to a couple of months.

Is BJJ hard on your knees?

A knee injury is a more frequent injury during a BJJ. It takes several months for a knee to stabilize after an injury. The largest knee injuries sustained during competition were MCL and LCL, and ACL. MCL is positioned in front (inside) of the knee while the LCL is on the outside of the knee.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu can be hard on the knees if you are prone to having sore ones. If you are in this boat, get a solid knee sleeve that is optimized for both comfort and protection. Our recommendation will always be anaconda (website) we love their sleeve and will continue to buy them until we get out black belt.

knee injury healing process - jiu jitsu injury

Back Injuries

BJJ-related injuries come in all shapes and sizes. Probably the most irritating place to have any kind of soreness or discomfort has got to be back. There is really no kind of brace available that is built to help keep your back in shape so you will have to build a solid core to keep yourself from injuring this part of your body.

Can Brazilian jiu-jitsu cause brain damage?

The impact on the brain can cause brain damage but chokes can be a serious problem. Choke causes severe death when oxygen is stopped within 2 minutes.

How long after you get injured should you see a physiotherapist/physical therapist?

On the day of injury, our general recommendation is to adhere to this RICE protocol for at least 24 hours. Typically patients need physiotherapy and physical therapy within a day. The physiotherapists will start with gentle muscle mobilization with accelerated rehabilitation exercises.

Are injuries common in jiu-jitsu?

We believe that dings and bruises are very common but it is not common for someone in our gym to walk out with something that is going to leave them out for weeks at a time. If you have a healthy training environment injuries should not be happening very frequently.

We have been to gyms in the past that have large signs on the front that says “take care of your teammates” and the rule is taken very seriously. You do not want to be known as the guy that hurts people when they roll, there may be mat enforcers that smash you for showing any type of bullying behavior.

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