Injury and Recovery

One of the unfortunate realities for anyone who trains Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, or any other sports for that matter, is injury.

Even if you are a safe, conscientious practitioner, the likelihood of accidental injury increases alongside time spent training. The severity of an injury will dictate the amount of time needed to recover, as well as the kind of physical requirements needed for sufficient recovery before returning to the mat. In this post I will look at a few things that you should be looking to do on the path to recovery in the unfortunate event of injury.

My own experience with injuries have been numerous, but thankfully not as severe as others that I have seen. Please bear in mind that I am not a substitute for professional medical advice.

I’d like to address some larger ideas and advice that I have found effective for dealing with Injury and Recovery. It’s not really my style to tell anyone exactly how and what they should be doing to deal with injury as we are all individual. What I will say though is this; do what is right for your body. If you want to be on the mats and roll ’til you’re old you are going to have to respect your body, learn to listen to it and learn to manage issues as they come up. Unfortunately, some injuries are unavoidable; stemming from long existing weaknesses in out body, external factors or even just straight accidents. Here are some of the best things (in my opinion) that you can do to deal with injury and help to recover.

Stay Positive

Sometimes an injury feels like the end of the world. Jiu-jitsu means a lot to us, and in those moments following an injury we often feel like this could be the thing that stops us from training forever. The key is to stay positive, it isn’t the end of the world and you will recover! 

I remember, in the lead up to a competition, injuring my rib so severely that I couldn’t even sustain lying on my side in bed or sneezing, never mind training. I competed anyways (because despite sounding smart at times, I’m actually an idiot) and as a result spent almost 12 weeks post-comp in severe pain every evening because I straight refused to miss training.

This was not smart. At all. But it reflected where I was at at the time in my life. I had discovered that BJJ had a major impact in helping me to counteract depression, which I struggled with a lot; I knew that if I had skipped that competition and removed myself from training at the time, I would have been unlikely to return to the gym after 6 weeks of recovery.

At that time in my life, I was not resilient and did not know how to maintain a positive mindset. It takes time and effort, especially when you are injured, to accept your situation and allow your body & mind time to recover from the damage that has been done.

Be Patient

Recovery takes time; don’t rush the recovery process! Be it 3 weeks or 3 months, your body needs time to recovery correctly. Being impatient or feeling frustrated by the fact that you can’t train will only mess with your mindset and prevent you from staying positive. Take the time to do other things and keep yourself occupied.

I was unlucky enough to pick up a really bad staph infection in my leg whilst training in Thailand. You can imagine the frustration; saving for 2 years to spend a month training at one of the top MMA gyms in Thailand only to get staph a week in! At first, I was beside myself. I was so angry, impatient and frustrated… All I wanted to do was train! I took a step back and relaxed, I couldn’t allow it to ruin my training holiday. I kept busy, stayed patient and allowed the antibiotics to do their job and I was soon back on the mats, sweating like a madman in the Thai heat.

Of course, this only took me a week or so to recover from, but the point remains the same. I do not wish injury upon anyone because I know the frustration of having to take months off, never mind weeks!

Recover Correctly

Do whatever it takes to make sure you can return to training at 100%. Is the physio telling you to do really annoying or time consuming stretches? Do them. Are the doctors telling you to make sure you keep your wounds clean and complete your courses of medication? Listen to them. 

Don’t half ass your recovery. I’ve talked about this before and I made this mistake myself with a rib injury. I separated a rib (the same injury I mentioned above) and didn’t recover correctly. Eventually the damage took a larger toll and I broke the same rib almost 6 months later. Don’t fuck about with recovery. 

Stretching, yoga and even supplementary weight lifting are all important for keeping your body ready for the strains of BJJ. Neglecting these things are often the biggest mistakes I see practitioners make and I am totally guilty of this myself.

Sleeping well is, in my experience, the cornerstone of recovery. Often the pain of an injury can inhibit this, so it is vital that you find some way to ensure you are still getting enough restful sleep. Try to avoid pharmaceuticals. They may seem like a quick fix, and may even feel good, but they are not going to help you to recover. With the legalization of cannabis becoming more widespread, it is a non-pharmaceutical option that is likely to provide a lot of relief for painful injuries and to aid recovery.

Stay Active

I understand that a lot of injuries leave us quite inhibited in the ways  we might be able to move, but it is still important to stay active whilst injured. Don’t just park up in front of the T.V with the Playstation or Xbox. Try to get outside and try creative ways to get a workout in around your injury. Physical activity helps to release endorphins that will help you to feel good and stay positive.

I had a pretty severe neck injury that prevented my from training for about 3 weeks. It was painful, restrictive and frustrating. Instead of training, I took walks and did some (less intense) hikes which I found helped immensely. I came back to training after taking the time to recover feeling fresh and ready to go without a huge impact on my fitness levels.

Eat Well

You need to eat well to help your body recover quicker. I’ve lived with people who have been injured, watching as their diet slowly decayed into fast food and unhealthy snacks whilst they lay around doing nothing. Eating well should not be tied to the fact that you are active, you should be doing it regardless of whether you are training or not.

Your body needs good nutrition when you are injured more than when you are healthy. Especially if your movement is inhibited, you have less opportunities to burn calories, which come in abundance from junk foods.

This aspect also helps immensely when it comes to staying positive, as a good diet will help your gut flora to stay healthy and give you the energy to feel good throughout the day rather than crashing out on sugary crap. I’ve heard specific advice around what kind of things people should look to eat whilst injured, but I’m not about to make general recommendations.

The bottom line is that injuries suck, but it is part of the whole journey. It’s not the end of the world and you will heal. I hope this advice helps, but as I said; please do not neglect the advice of qualified professionals.

Happy Healing.



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