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Is BJJ Dangerous? – What Are The Most Common Injuries And How To Avoid Them

Is BJJ Dangerous

Is bjj dangerous to train? Do you want to know the common injuries in jiu jitsu and how to avoid them?

In this post, we go over how Brazilian jiu jitsu measures up when compared to other martial arts in terms of injury rate, common bjj injuries, and how you can practice bjj more safely.

Brazilian jiu jitsu is one of the safer martial arts to practice with full force. It doesn’t involve any striking, and there is a strong focus on technique, control, and ground fighting. However, injuries are sometimes inevitable if you engage in a contact sport or martial art.

Training bjj safely should be one of the biggest concerns for any student or coach. Unfortunately, injuries do happen. In fact, based on a survey we did from over a dozen forum based pages such as Reddit and Quora with responses from almost 80 people who trained bjj then quit:

~33% claimed injury as the reason why they quit BJJ

So let’s take a further look at the injury rate in BJJ and how to avoid becoming part of that statistic.

BJJ Injury Rate

Injuries do happen in BJJ – however, it should be noted that it is pretty much the safest martial art that you can train. Due to there being no striking, the concussion or head trauma risk is very low. Plus Brazilian jiu jitsu puts a strong emphasis on technique and controlling your opponent.

A study by Scoggin et al. of The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine shows that out of the 5022 exposures to injury risk in BJJ competitions, 46 were injuries

Orthopedic injuries were the most common category and accounted for 78.3% or 36 of all injuries.

INJURY SITENO. OF INJURIES
Elbow14
Knee7
Foot and Ankle5
Hand4
Shoulder4
Hip1
Cervical1

Fingers, elbows, knees, ears, ankles, and toes are all potential injury sites. Others experience injuries their ribs, shoulders, neck, or back. These injuries are not specific to bjj – as many other competitive sports like soccer. Based on a study by Forsythe et al. in 2022:

…soccer is associated with high injury rates, with epidemiology studies indicating that professional soccer players sustain 4 to 35 injuries per 1000 hours of exposure

While Brazilian jiu jitsu hasn’t been studied nearly as much as other more popular sports like soccer, its pretty safe to assume that any competitive sport or martial art does come with its fair share of injuries.

Through my 6 years of bjj training, I believe that the most common injuries are caused by hyper extension of the elbow usually performed during an arm bar or from falling body weight.

Here are some other common injuries that may occur in jiu jitsu:

Injury SitesCommon InjuriesCauses
ElbowsHyperextension, Dislocation, FractureArm bar
FingersFracture, Dislocation, SprainGrappling, Gripping, Locks
KneesSprain, Strain, Fracture, DislocationLeg locks, Sweeps, Takedowns
EarsCauliflower earGrappling in general
Ankle and FootSprains, BreaksAnkle Locks, Grappling,

Again, even though there is some risk of getting hurt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, it’s not as much as in other martial arts that involve strikes.

Injury Rates – Comparing BJJ to Other Martial Arts

Based on several surveys, we compiled the above data to show the average injury incident rate based on 100 competition rounds/matches.

These estimates were taken and combined from several different studies linked above.


A couple things we can assume based on these findings are that:

  • grappling based (non striking martial arts) are generally safer than striking based ones
  • Jiu jitsu and wrestling have a pretty low injury incident rate

We have also linked studies to each of the estimate figures below in the references section

Common Jiu Jitsu Injuries

data pulled from beltchecker.com

When examining the above data, we see that the most common injuries in bjj are:

  • Knee Injuries (22.5%)
  • Shoulder Injuries (13.7%)
  • Rib Injuries (8.4%)
  • Back Injuries (6.7%)

In my own bjj experience, I’ve had some knee soreness, shoulder injury, and rib injury so these statistics line up pretty well in my personal training.

Knee Injury

Knee injuries in Brazilian jiu jitsu often result from the twisting motions and pressure applied during grappling and submission attempts. The complex movements and positions, like guard playing or takedowns, or twisting submissions (like heel hooks or toeholds) can put strain on the knee ligaments, leading to sprains or tears.

Shoulder Injury

Techniques involving arm locks, shoulder locks, and the constant use of arms for defense and attack place significant strain on the shoulder joints, leading to potential injuries.

There are several submissions that are focused on attacking the shoulder joint that can cause damage such as americanas, kimuras, and even other arm locks that can place indirect strain on the shoulder like arm bars.

Rib injury

Rib injuries in BJJ can occur due to the direct pressure applied to the chest area during grappling, especially when an opponent’s weight is concentrated on the ribcage. Sudden, forceful movements or being in a compromised position can also result in rib strains or fractures.

Inversions, certain guard positions, and even other twisting based takedowns and throws can cause strain or damage to the rib cage.

Back Injury

Back injuries are often caused by the twisting, bending, and lifting movements inherent in BJJ. These actions, combined with the resistance from an opponent, can lead to muscle strains, disc issues, or other spinal injuries, particularly in the lower back.

How to Make Jiu Jitsu Training Safer

Here are some tips on how you can make jiu jitsu training safer:

  • warm up properly
  • Avoid over training
  • choose your training and sparring partners carefully
  • be aware of your surroundings when sparring
  • consider pulling guard or not wrestling
  • play a slower, technique-based and control-based strategy
  • consider weight training to strengthen your muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues
  • Maintain proper hygiene (to avoid skin infections)

Is Jiu Jitsu Hard

Is BJJ Hard?

Yes, Brazilian jiu jitsu is challenging, but due to its focus on control and technique anyone can learn bjj regardless of their age, sex, or athletic ability.

While BJJ is hard, with consistent training you can expect to learn the basics at ~6 months to 1 year.

Jiu jitsu is hard based on a couple factors:

  • endless techniques (which take a long time to master)
  • mentally challenging (it can be frustrating at times)
  • steep learning curve
  • physically demanding
  • injury risk*

Starting bjj can be very difficult as you are immediately exposed to a massive depth of techniques that you weren’t previously aware of.

This stark learning curve may often lead beginners to quite before they begin improving. However, if you can make it passed the first 6 months you will begin to improve quite quickly.

“How you deal with frustration and failure will directly impact how far you go in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu”


What Is the Safest Martial Art?

Is there a safest martial art? While every martial art or competitive sport does have injury risks, grappling based martial arts that focus on ground fighting like:

Brazilian jiu jitsu limits these risks by not including striking and with less focus on takedowns or stand up grappling.

If you are considering other safer martial arts you may want to look into martial arts that don’t include sparring like aikido or tai chi – however, the reason we do not recommend these is that since there is no live sparring there is no way to tell if the techniques actually work in real life situations.

Is BJJ Dangerous – Conclusion

Any sport or physical activity, including martial arts like BJJ, comes with a risk of injury. However, there are ways to minimize those risks and stay safe while training. 

Brazilian jiu jitsu is one of the safer martial arts to practice with full force. It doesn’t involve any striking, and there is a strong focus on technique, control, and ground fighting. However, injuries are sometimes inevitable if you engage in a contact sport or martial art.

If you are interested in trying an accessible yet effective martial art, we can’t recommend Brazilian jiu jitsu enough. As we outline in this post, it is one of the safer martial arts that still includes live sparring (which is required to prove effectiveness of techniques).

Thanks for reading and see you in the next one! – Zack


References:


Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Competition Injury
Scoggin, James & Brusovanik, Georgiy & Izuka, Byron & Rilland, Eddy & Geling, Olga & Tokumura, Seren. (2014). Assessment of Injuries During Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Competition. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. 2. 10.1177/2325967114522184.

Soccer Incident Rate
Forsythe B, Knapik DM, Crawford MD, et al. Incidence of Injury for Professional Soccer Players in the United States: A 6-Year Prospective Study of Major League Soccer. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. 2022;10(3). doi:10.1177/23259671211055136

Professional Boxing Risk/Injury Rate
Bledsoe GH, Li G, Levy F. Injury risk in professional boxing. South Med J. 2005 Oct;98(10):994-8. doi: 10.1097/01.smj.0000182498.19288.e2. PMID: 16295814.

Wrestling Risk/Injury Rate
Van den berg C, Black A, Richmond SA, Babul S, Pike I. Evidence Summary: Wrestling. Active & Safe
Central. BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit: Vancouver, BC; 2018. Available at http://activesafe.ca/

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Risk/Injury Rate
Hinz M, Kleim BD, Berthold DP, Geyer S, Lambert C, Imhoff AB, Mehl J. Injury Patterns, Risk Factors, and Return to Sport in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: A Cross-sectional Survey of 1140 Athletes. Orthop J Sports Med. 2021 Dec 20;9(12):23259671211062568. doi: 10.1177/23259671211062568. PMID: 34988235; PMCID: PMC8721390.

MMA Risk/Injury Rate
Rainey CE. Determining the prevalence and assessing the severity of injuries in mixed martial arts athletes. N Am J Sports Phys Ther. 2009 Nov;4(4):190-9. PMID: 21509103; PMCID: PMC2953351.