Is BJJ Bad For Your Joints? – How to Train For Longevity

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a great discipline if you want to learn to defend yourself or practice sports. However, many people wonder if they can practice, compete, and remain injury-free.

In Jiu-Jitsu, the submissions work in multiple ways. One is choking the opponent unconscious. Some other locks cause muscular compression, trying to submit the opponent by inflicting pain. But, Is BJJ bad for your joints?

Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art in which joints are one of the main targets to attack. Therefore, BJJ has the potential to be bad for your joints, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t mitigate such risks and avoid joint injuries altogether.

Let’s dive in.

How Do Joints Work Briefly Explained

Oversimplifying everything, our joints are the points where our bones connect. 

They also help us move our bones. This happens as the bones that meet in each joint are attached by bands called ligaments and the muscles that attach to the bones, called tendons.

These ligaments and tendons are made of muscular tissue, flexible enough to allow normal movement without tearing and strong enough to hold the joint in place.

Damaging these supports would allow bones to ram into each other and damage the cartilage that lines the joint up.

Let’s take a look at how this can happen during BJJ practice.

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Does BJJ Represent Serious Danger To Your Joints?

Is BJJ Bad For Your Joints? - How to Train For Longevity

In general, any movement of the joints will slowly cause tear and wear over time, but if we want to go straight to the point, then Yes, BJJ does represent a danger to your joints due to the submission locks.

However, it doesn’t mean that you are likely to injure yourself every time you practice Jiu-Jitsu.

Some joints are more resistant than others and less likely to get damaged in practice.

Another factor that will determine the health of your joints long-term is the workout intensity. It is unlikely that you’ll get injured drilling technique, but you may be close during live rolling.

We will go slightly deeper into how damage can happen to your joints.

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What Causes Joint Problems And Which Joints Should I Worry About The Most In BJJ?

Is BJJ Bad For Your Joints? - How to Train For Longevity

Due to the nature of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the techniques we apply can cause increased joint stress, both rotational and translational, which is one of the significant contributors to common injuries.

In simpler terms, we cause stress to the joints in each of the locks that we apply, which can cause tear or dislocation if they persist.

We will touch on some of the Joints that are more commonly placed in danger during BJJ practice and explain how this happens.

Shoulder Joints 

The shoulder joints are the ones that get attacked the most during BJJ practice, at least as you start and continue to learn.

Joint locks like the Americana and Kimura put pressure on the rotator cuff in the shoulder.

These locks can dislocate the shoulder or tear the ligaments and tendons in the joint.

They’re also prevalent from white to black belt. And are one of the first submissions everybody learns and are more prone to land as newbies. 

Elbow Joints

The elbow joint is the attack point of well-known submissions such as the Armbar or Straight Arm Lock.

The shoulder is held in one spot, and the arm is extended over the limit set by straightening the arm, causing what is medically known as a “Hyper-Extention.”

This hyper-extension forces a ton of pressure on the elbow, which can “break” the joint and cause internal damage.

Knee Joints

Can You Do BJJ With A Knee Replacement

The Knee Joints are in for some fun during leglock practice.

First, we have the Kneebar, which is similar to the armbar and aims to hyper-extend the knee joint to “break” and damage the joint.

It is just as bad as it sounds, but another situation can happen when you attack the feet during heel hooks and toe holds.

During the attempted escape or via the attacker’s rotation, the knee might get twisted, and the ligaments can be pulled and stretched beyond normal movement.

This is called “Knee Reaping,” and it is usually illegal in most competitions for a good reason.

It can cause a ton of damage to the opponent, and well, it is simply not pretty.

What To Do To Prevent Joint Damage If You Train BJJ? 

This is going to be quite simple, but there are a few suitable methods to reduce the chances of joint damage during practice:

Warm-Up Properly

This should be your focus as soon as you get to class if you are worried about joint problems.

Do not skip the warm-up and take the proper time to enter class ready to go.

Do Mobility work and Stretching

You wouldn’t believe just how under-appreciated these two types of training are.

Doing mobility work will keep you nimble and allow your joints to be more relaxed.

Stretching will also improve your passive and active flexibility, which will reduce the chances of injury if you follow the next point.

Tap Early if Required

Jiu-Jitsu focuses on finishing a fight via submission, which means that the locks are the primary goal of your opponent.

They do not want to damage your joints, just force you to submit with a joint lock.

If you are starting to feel the stress of the joint lock, then tap before it becomes painful.

Keep the ego outside of the mats, and remember, you either win or learn. And no matter how good you think you are, there’s someone better that will tap you.

It is all right to tap out when you need to, and nobody will judge you for doing so, as they rather have you on the mats longer than spend time recovering from injury.

Can You Practice BJJ If You Have Injured Joints?

This answer depends on which joint is injured and how serious the injury is.

The pain can be unbearable for some joints, like wrists and fingers, as our hands are essential for almost everything during BJJ class.

In the case of the neck and ankles, they could get hurt, but there is a chance that we can still practice some BJJ techniques with little issues.

Having injured knees, elbows, shoulders, or even hips will reasonably halt your ability to practice and roll in BJJ, so you may want to take some time to analyze the situation before you force yourself into the mats once again. 

in other articles, we talked about:

So you may have a better idea if you read those articles. (If not, why don’t you take the time to read those articles after you finish this one?)

When it comes to some of the least severe injuries, you may be able to practice technique and even do some light rolling with a bit of discomfort.

But, if you have caused a significant ligament tear or it simply is painful, you may want to take some time off the mats to get better.

Is BJJ Bad for Your Joints? – Final Ideas 

As you can see now, our joints play a significant role in practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and pretty much how the human body moves in general.

Each of our joints has its function, and we use them all the time to land joint locks and tap out opponents. 

It is essential to stretch and work on mobility to have healthy joints, as they will be targeted during most of your BJJ rolling sessions.

Keep a clear head if you try to escape a joint lock, as it is way better to tap out when you find no way out than to get injured and take a forced time out to get back into training weeks or months later.

There is no need to risk some career-ending injury just to make yourself look like a tough guy on the mats.

Be humble and stay healthy, as we want to see you on the mats as often as possible.

If you liked the information in this article, please share it with friends and classmates so they can take care of their joints too. 

Don’t forget to check out our other articles on similar topics if you want to know more about specific joint injuries and how to deal with them.

We hope you keep training and make the most out of your rolling sessions until the next article.

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