What are the Top 5 Most Common Jiu Jitsu Injuries

What are the Top 5 Most Common Jiu Jitsu Injuries

People often call Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, “the gentle art,” but anyone that trains would tell you that the sport is far from gentle! Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be a rough martial art to practice and if you train long enough you’re going to get banged up! Injuries are sometimes inevitable – especially if you are training hard. It’s just part of the martial art and something you have to deal with when they do happen. 

In this guide, we take a look at the top 5 most common Jiu Jitsu injuries. We’ll also list the preventative measures to avoid the injury and the rehab that comes with the injury. 

1. Cauliflower Ear

By looking at someone, there is a physical trait that can tell you if they train BJJ or grappling. If their ears look like beaten hamburger meat, then they most likely train BJJ or some other form of grappling sport.  

Cauliflower ear is the name for a common Jiu Jitsu injury in training when your ear is damaged. This injury can occur from choke attempts, clinches, and accidental hits.   

What happens is when your ear is hit or scrapped, the cartilage and skin separate. Blood fills the space between and your ear swells up like a balloon! It looks very similar to a bundle of cauliflower – hence the name!  

Cauliflower Ear - Randy Couture

Preventative Measures and Cures:

There are two cures for cauliflower ear. The first is to get syringes and drain your ear. After you drain it, you need to grab some ice and firmly press it on your ear for 10 minutes to reduce swelling.

You may need to do this numerous times and need to do it immediately after you sustain the injury. Otherwise, the blood will solidify and you’ll be stuck with these nasty looking ears.  

The other cure if you don’t want permanent cauliflower ears is surgery. A plastic surgeon will cut into your ear and remove the blood and scar tissue making it somewhat normal.   

If you don’t want the cauliflower ear to get worse, then you will want to wear some ear protectors for a while. Wear them until swelling goes down. Head gear or ear protectors are also the preventative measure if you don’t want to have nasty cauliflower ears. They can be a real pain. They can sometimes get so swelled up that you can’t even wear earphones anymore! 

2. Knee Injuries

Another common Jiu Jitsu injury is damage to your knees. In BJJ, you often cut through quick angles and get your legs pushed and pulled on. If you’re a beginner you often want to muscle your way through things. If your knee is trapped, while you try this, you can really bust up your knees!  

This can put immense pressure on your knees and maybe sooner or later something in them gives out. Ligament and cartilage damage in the knees happen frequently in Jiu Jitsu and unfortunate when they happen.  

knee injury

Preventative Measures and Cures:

A knee injury put you out of training from anywhere to a few weeks to a year. Cures for knee injuries include surgery and rehab. For severe knee injuries this probably means you will need both.  

After you return to training, you will need to take it slow and not go 100%. Knee braces or sleeves may need to be worn to provide extra support to your knee. They can also be worn before as a preventative if you already had bad knees before training BJJ. 

3. Elbow Injuries

One of the most common Jiu Jitsu injuries are damages to your elbows. They generally happen on submissions if you’re late on tapping or a teammate cranks on your arm too hard before you get a chance to tap. This injury is painful – it truly limits your mobility and makes it super hard to train.  

elbow injury

Preventative Measures and Cures:

When you suffer an injury like an elbow hyper extension, the time off from training can last days to weeks – sometimes even months! Immediately after it happens, you need to ice your elbow and take anti inflammation medication. Rehab could be needed for severe hyper extensions.  

Preventable cures would include tapping early and picking better training partners. When you get put in an arm bar don’t be stubborn and tap earlier. Also pick a training partner that won’t try to rip your arm off, so you can keep training injury free. 

4. Shoulder Injuries

Injuries to your shoulder are also quite common. They might get banged up on a take down or you may get caught in a weird position and get one torqued the wrong way. Injuring your shoulder limits your arm’s mobility  

The least severe shoulder injuries and hyper extensions and tears, while the worst are dislocations and labral tears.  

Preventative Measures and Cures:

A shoulder injury rehab will likely be in your future – especially if you train competitively. For the severe injuries like separations and tendon tears surgery are slightly more of a rare case but they do happen if you aren’t careful.   

Shoulder mobility and strengthening exercises are good preventive measures to take before and after shoulder injuries. One good method to do both of these things is a method called hanging therapy. Have a pull up bar and hang on to it for 3:1 minute rounds to strengthen and rehab your shoulder. 

5. Finger and Toe Injuries

Probably the most common Jiu Jitsu injuries will have to be finger and toe injuries. When you train in Gi Jiu Jitsu, you will inevitably damage your fingers.   

Grabbing and pulling on Gis really take a toll on your fingers. They can also really get hurt if they accidentally get stuck in someone's gi and get bent the wrong way.  

Toe injuries are also very common as well. Within a year of training you will most like roll or jam your toes quite a few times and it’s almost unavoidable – especially so when you train No Gi Jiu Jitsu. It’s simply a matter of time until your toes get banged up and bent out of shape! 

toe injuries

Preventative Measures and Cures:

There is one thing that is the preventative measure and the cure for finger and toe injuries. Tape.  

Tape is your friend in BJJ and you will be quite acquainted with it after you train for some time. For most finger and toe injuries, they just hurt and time off from training is your prerogative.   

But if you’re stubborn like most of us that train, you can just tape up those banged fingers and toes and get right back at it! Tape provides extra support to injured appendages and provides support when you’re building strength in them. Although if you keep re-injuring them and not let them heal properly, there’s a high chance your fingers can get permanently deformed! 

Final Thoughts

In a contact sport like BJJ, it’s only a matter of time until you get injured. It’s just the nature of the sport. These are the top 5 most common Jiu Jitsu injuries that occur in training. For those beginning their journey into training injuries like these happen and you just have to deal with them. BJJ is not as gentle as you might think!  

It’s important to keep in mind that injuries are quite common. You simply have to be aware of the risks and take the necessary safety precautions to try to mitigate that risk. We’re not saying you will be injury free, but you’ll be better prepared for when they do happen.