How to deal with injuries in BJJ? At different stages of my training I have injured my foot, toe, both elbows, shoulder, and knee. Some of these injuries were minor, but altogether they kept me off the mat for a long while. How to stay in good shape and maintain your focus when you are forced to take time off due to an injury? Can anything be done to not waste this time?
You’ve suddenly felt sharp pain. You know it’s not the good kind of pain and that this may be serious. That’s why you got off the mat straight away and put some ice over the painful bit. For the sake of this post let’s assume this is pain in your knee joint.
If after resting for 24 hours you still cannot walk normally, the swelling still persists, you can’t move the joint in certain ways without feeling pain, this indicates that your injury may be serious.
Even though the whole process is annoying, it is worth getting such things checked out. Unless it’s an emergency, the wait for an NHS appointment is about 2 weeks. Arrange it and if you won’t need it in two weeks – that’s great. However, if after two weeks your knee won’t feel any better, you’ll only curse yourself for not arranging to see a doctor earlier, because now you’ll have to wait another two weeks and so your time off is extended.
The pain is not going away, will I have to get an MRI?
Not, necessarily. Sometimes an USG (ultrasonography) followed by a physiotherapist examination may be enough to see what’s wrong. USG is a diagnostic imaging technique, which is not as costly as getting an MRI, while it’s still very effective.
Why is it important to know exactly what’s wrong?
Most importantly, because it will reduce the stress caused by the contusion. You will know exactly what happened, which means that you’ll know which type of movement will aggravate your injury and which type will speed up recovery.
The NHS offers self-referred free physio consultations. You can refer yourself online at healthshare.org.uk. However, it is important to remember that since this is a free service it is not always of the highest quality. Make sure to ask whether your physio will be an experienced professional rather than a trainee, which sometimes happens.
Even if your injury is serious it will start feeling a little better after a week or two of rest. It may still hurt a little, but overall you may think it’s mostly healed. Annoyed by having to take time off, missing your training partners and your body screaming for physical activity you will be tempted to train again.
Nobody has ever followed this advice the first time they were given it (sometimes not even the third), but do not do it. It is something you learn only once you’ve re-injured yourself by coming back too early.
If you return to training too early, not only will your injury become more severe, but also your recovery time will extend every time you do it. This is coming from a person who had to take 6 months off instead of 2 for this exact reason.
How will I know when to start training again?
If you have a good sports physio then simply listen to what they say even if you don’t like it. Otherwise, the rule of thumb is that anytime something hurts you wait until it doesn’t hurt anymore. And this means feeling no pain while performing a full range of movement.
What worked for me?
After two weeks – gentle (boring) yoga to keep the body moving and ensure there is enough blood flow to the joint to speed up healing. Half an hour 5 times per week. Not performing any movement which requires twisting the joint or anything that feels even mildly uncomfortable.
More yoga & physio
If my knee felt alright, I would practice technique in class unless it involved any uncomfortable movements
Back to normal training
Will I forget everything I learned?
Moves which you have performed over and over again during training become a part of your muscle memory. At the beginning, being back on the mat will be awkward, but after a week most of it comes back.
If you want to keep your mind sharp too, it’s worth it to come to class just to watch the technique. This way you’ll still feel like you learned something during the time you had stay off the mats.
Will I get smashed when I come back?
Probably, yes. Your cardio will suck, your movements will be awkward and you may struggle against lower grades. If you stuck to a healthy diet, did some drills before starting to spar again, you could be back in shape as soon as in 1-2 weeks after coming back. Competition form will take longer than that.
Having to take time off due to an injury is extremely frustrating and it’s normal to want to get back as soon as possible. Unfortunately, that minimal period of time is usually longer than we expect. This post is based on the assumption that you want to practice jiu jitsu long-term. Fix yourself properly unless you’re ready to face lifelong injuries, which even if will still allow you to roll, may put your out of competing very quickly. It’s not easy to find the patience, but it’s definitely worth it.