Is Jiu-Jitsu Dangerous? (& How To Train BJJ Safely)

By Tsavo NealLearning BJJLeave a Comment

Is jiu-jitsu dangerous?

Yes. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it — or that you can’t recover from a worst-case scenario.

Here’s a story to illustrate my point.

In July of 2021, I was a four-stripe white belt attending my usual Wednesday night BJJ class.

I was training with a purple belt doing an unusually intense round. Near the end of the round, I shot for a takedown.

My training partner jumped for a guillotine right as I dove in, landing on my right leg. There was a loud crack, and I hit the ground.

I ended up breaking my leg and damaging my meniscus.

Swelling in my right knee after a serious BJJ injury

However, a few months later, in October of 2021, I was back on the mats.

I overcame this serious injury — and was rewarded with my blue belt exactly 3 months after breaking my leg.

So yes, jiu-jitsu is dangerous. It’s fighting. And fighting is dangerous.

However, relative to other martial arts and sports, it’s not as dangerous.

And it’s unlikely that you’ll sustain an injury as serious as mine.

In this article, I’ll make the case for training BJJ despite it being dangerous.

I’ll also discuss…

Let’s dive in.

BJJ Injury Statistics & Research

To answer the question “is jiu-jitsu dangerous,” let’s examine the facts, data, and statistics around BJJ injuries.

  1. Sustaining an injury in any sport, including BJJ, is more likely to happen than not. (Source)
  2. Comparison of the BJJ injury data with injury data reported for judo, taekwondo, wrestling, and mixed martial arts showed that BJJ competitors were at substantially lower risk of injury compared with these other sports. (Source)
  3. Overall, the most common injury locations were to the hand and fingers (n = 70), foot and toes (n = 52), and arm and elbow (n = 51). (Source)
  4. If we remove minor injuries (general pain, jammed joints, bruises, skin injuries) the injury rate is 5.4/1000 hr – this is close to weight training or many other “safe” activities. (Source)
  5. Strength training reduces overuse injuries by up to 50%, and acute injuries by 33%. (Source)
  6. The more experienced you are at BJJ, the less likely you are likely to get injured. (Source)
    • 42.5% of injuries were sustained by white belts
    • 32.5% of injuries were sustained by blue belts
    • 13.3% of injuries were sustained by purple belts
    • 5% of injuries were sustained by brown belts
    • 6.7% of injuries were sustained by black belts
  7. Novice athletes demonstrated higher prevalence of injuries during training sessions (54.5%), whereas advanced athletes reported more injuries during competitions (66.1%) (Source)
  8. The most common mechanisms of injury specifically identified were indeterminate contact between players, fall onto ground, or fall onto another player comprising 18.62% and 17.17%, of injuries, respectively. (Source)
  9. Two-thirds of injured participants required medical attention, with 15% requiring surgery. (Source)
  10. Participants requiring surgical treatment were six and a half times more likely to consider quitting compared to those requiring other treatments, including no treatment. (Source)
  11. Participants required to take more than four months off training were five and a half times more likely to consider quitting compared to those who took less time off. (Source)
  12. The injury chance increases in cases where the practitioner feels pain during warm-up. In contrast, the chance of injury is less as the duration of the warm-up period increases. (Source)

If you’d like to find more research on injuries in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, check out this page.

To summarize, injuries do happen in BJJ.

However, compared to other sports and martial arts, the risk of injury in BJJ is relatively low.

And there are many things you can do to drastically reduce your chance of getting injured. 

bjj injury statistics bjj belt checker

Common BJJ injuries according to BJJ BELTCHECKER

How To Prevent Injuries In BJJ

Based on the data, here are my principles and recommendations for BJJ injury prevention:

  1. Choose the right gym. If you want to minimize your chance of getting injured, choose a gym that has a culture of safety. If you sense the people in your gym train too recklessly, find a gym where participants take your health seriously.
  2. Do your strength training. Strength training is the best way to get stronger and minimize your chance of getting injured. Lifting weights 2-3 times per week in the gym is all you need — and it will make you a better grappler.
  3. Adopt a stretching/mobility routine. Keeping your body limber, flexible, and mobile will do wonders for your longevity. I recommend these 17 stretches which I do a few times per week.
  4. Warm up before you train. Do a quick 5-minute warmup before you train. And if your body is feeling iffy doing basic movements, stick to drilling for that day.
  5. Take your recovery seriously. Don’t train to the point of exhaustion, sleep 7-8 hours a night, eat a healthy diet, and supplement properly. Allowing your body to recover between training sessions will help reduce your chance of getting injured.

How To Train BJJ Safely

Based on the data, here are my principles and recommendations for training BJJ safely:

  1. Wear finger tape. If you train primarily in the gi — and especially if you play grip-heavy guards — BJJ finger tape is a must. It will help protect your hands and fingers, which is the body part you’re most likely to hurt.
  2. Roll at a safe gym with training partners who value your safety. You choose who you roll with. If there’s someone you don’t feel safe rolling with, simply turn them down.
  3. Tap early & often. Many injuries to your elbow, knee, and shoulders can be prevented by tapping early. Leave your ego at the door. Unless you’re competing, who cares if you get tapped out? Think long-term. This is how John Danaher instructs Gordon Ryan to train.
  4. Start sitting. Many injuries happen to start from the standing position. If you’re a hobbyist who doesn’t plan on competing, just start your rounds seated.
  5. No uncontrolled falling techniques. According to John Danaher, uncontrolled falling techniques cause the most catastrophic injuries. Don’t practice these techniques, and ask your training partners to do the same when they train with you.

How To Recover From BJJ Injuries

Based on the data, here are my principles and recommendations for how to recover from BJJ injuries:

  1. Find a qualified physiotherapist. A physiotherapist who understands BJJ, wrestling, or judo is worth their weight in gold. They’re essential to helping you create a physiotherapy program and help you get back on the mats.
  2. Do your physiotherapy consistently. Rest isn’t enough to overcome your injury. You need to get stronger. So, when your physiotherapist gives you a training program, do it consistently.
  3. Go to class and watch. Your chances of quitting BJJ are highest when you stop going to class due to your injury. If you are sidelined, go to class to watch and take notes. John Danaher has seen his students come back BETTER after time off the mats if they show up and work on their mental game.
  4. Return to BJJ cautiously. Don’t rush back to training 100%. Take it as slow as you need. Start with solo drilling. Then do partner drilling. Then light positional sparring. Then flow rolling. If you start to aggravate your injury, regress to what you can do pain-free.
  5. Become stronger than you were before your injury. Injuries don’t mean you have to be weak and stiff. You’ll have your work cut out for you, but there are many stories about people coming back stronger after their injury. Why not you?

Takeaway Thoughts & Discussion

So, is jiu-jitsu dangerous?

Yes. It’s fighting. Of course it’s dangerous.

However, if you follow my 15 recommendations above, you’ll drastically reduce your chance of injury.

You’ll make fighting as safe as it can be — and even safer than other sports.

And despite how dangerous jiu-jitsu is, the benefits outweigh the risks.

Even if you do get hurt, remember this: if I can recover from a catastrophic injury, then so can you.

What’s your injury story? Have you ever suffered an injury, recovered, and got back on the mats?

Leave your story, comment. or question below and join the discussion.

Happy rolling. 🤙

tsavo neal

Tsavo Neal

Tsavo is the founder of BJJ Equipment, an assistant BJJ instructor at InFighting, and a BJJ purple belt. He's a passionate hobbyist and BJJ gear/equipment aficionado. He launched BJJ Equipment in 2022 to make it easy for grapplers to find the best BJJ gear so they look, feel, and perform at their best on the mats.

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