Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ) is one of the fastest growing sports around the world. BJJ emphasizes ground positioning and submissions, making it one of the mixed martial arts that has a relatively lower risk of injury in general when compared to MMA or Judo. However, the sport’s complex technique carries the probability for injury none the less. Using and analyzing data from the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission National Electronic Injury Surveillance System allows us to see estimates of injuries presenting to the ER that are related to BJJ as well as other MMA sports. This allowed us to better understand the types of injuries most commonly seen in the sport as well their mechanism. The studies showed that the most commonly injured body region in BJJ was the head. According to the Journal of Primary prevention these injuries occurred during noncompetitive grappling/ practice. Studies such as these allow us to understand what areas of the sport cause the most injuries and need to be evaluated. Furthermore, by assessing the mode of injury and what body region is affected, the studies aid in the prevention of future injury.
Fig. 1 Proportion of injuries to each body site and the most common diagnosis for each injured body region,
According to the study many of the injuries were caused not by technique of the actual sport, but rather opponents accidently executing technique wrong. The article states “proportion of competitors’ injuries to the head, neck, and trunk in BJJ were a result of their opponent landing on them or accidently striking them.” (Rossheim et al., 2018) This includes concussions as being one of the more common injuries in this category. The study concluded that “numerous injuries could potentially be avoided by increased training in proper falling techniques. (Pocecco et al., 2013). Furthermore, professional MMA competitions require mouth pieces, groin protectors, and gloves (UFC, 2017) but for BJJ, protective gear is often not required (IBJJF, 2015; IJF, 2014).
Similar to head injuries most trunk injuries occur during practice and result of their opponent landing on them or accidently striking them. Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Missouri, stated that discovering the prevalence of injuries in training is important because athletes spend more time in training than in competition. According to the studies, abrasions/contusions were the most common trunk injury. This brings us back to the idea that improving training technique and incorporating more preventative education is key to help reduce the incidence of such injuries.
With regards to shoulder injuries, studies showed that actual sports technique had a greater incidence in causing injury than accidental injuries as described above with the other injuries. BJJ relies heavily on the ability to submit your opponent and with that, certain techniques and maneuvers likely pose greater risk of injury than others. Whether it be an arm bar, omoplata, triangle, etc., these key maneuvers put the shoulder joint at risk for serious injury, which is essentially how you get your opponent to submit. Although these maneuvers are a fundamental part of the sport, studies have shown that there are ways to improve outcomes and prevent injury. The Journal of Primary Prevention stated that “implementation of additional rules and training policies could better protect athletes.” This means that big associations in charge of rules and regulations of the sport need to take initiative. “Preventive interventions could intervene at multiple levels, including the refinement and requirement of safety equipment, changing social norms surrounding the use of safety equipment, improved training on how to prevent injurious situations, enhanced rules on high risk maneuvers, and the consistent enforcement of these rules when violated.” All of these steps would greatly improve the safety of the sport as well as the well-being of the athletes.
- Matthew Spano, Donald A Risucci, Mill Etienne, and Kristina H. Petersen. “Epidemiology of Sports Related Concussion in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: A Cross-Sectional Study.” Sports 7.2 (2019): 53. Web.
- Stephenson, Caroline, and Matthew Rossheim. “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo, and Mixed Martial Arts Injuries Presenting to United States Emergency Departments, 2008–2015.” The Journal of Primary Prevention5 (2018): 421-35. Web.
- Usuki, H., A B Rosen, S. Jawed-Wessel, N. Grandgenett, and M L McGrath. “Injury History, Severity, and Medical Care for Athletes Participating in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.” Journal of Athletic Training6 (2017): S153. Web.
- (2017). Fighters train in multiple disciplines. Accessed Nov 1, 2019, from http://www.ufc.com/ discover/fighter/martialArtsStyles.
- International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF). (2015). Rule Book. Rio De Janeiro. Accessed Nov 1, 2019, from http://ibjjf.org/wpcontent/uploads/2015/04/RulesIBJJF_v4_en-US.pdf
By Nshwah Ahmad and Alee Vladyka