Injuries in BJJ competition

Recently, the Integrated Combat Centre (ICC) attended the Grappling Industries Sydney tournament. The ICC was proudly represented by a mix of seasoned veterans and first time competitors.

In over 16 years of attending/participating in BJJ competitions, never had I witnessed such a high injury toll as I did that day.  We witnessed a myriad of dislocations, hyper-extensions, accidental heat hits and broken bones.  The injuries were all experienced by novice competitors and largely came down to two reasons:

  1. Competitors putting their bodies on the line to score/prevent points/advantages; and
  2. Competitors not sufficiently warming up.

Competition beginners are most susceptible to injury.  Without causing offence, this is generally because they lack the technical knowledge and physical conditioning to handle the rigours of BJJ competition.  A BJJ tournament is not reflective of a normal BJJ class. The intensity, speed and strength (but not necessarily the technique to support these traits) means that novice competitors will move with more aggression, overreach beyond their range of normal motion and resist harder than normal.

If you are considering watching a tournament to see whether or not to take BJJ as a sport – this would be the wrong approach. BJJ class is nothing like competition. In class you are taught to practice techniques slowly and gently and provide your training partner ample opportunity to tap out. That courtesy disappears on the tournament’s mats.  Having said this, it is also the responsibility of the person having the submission applied to know their body’s limits and tap before passing out and getting injured.

Scheduling challenges at a tournament often means that competitors may pre-emptively warm up but not step on the mat for their match before their body cools down again. Or a competitor may not get a chance to warm up sufficiently before they are called to step up. There’s no warm-up roll to rely on – these competitors go from zero to 100.  And that’s when injuries can occur.

Injuries are inevitable in BJJ – it is after all, a contact sport.  However, if you are looking to complete, you should consider choosing a gym experienced in competition.  This ensures you develop the techniques to warm up and compete safely.

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