BJJ - Questions on injury frequency & gym quality

TheExperimenter19

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In jjust 20 classes I've been injured in sparring 4 times:
1) Broken rib
2) Torn pec
3) Neck muscle tear (from "can-opener")
4) Badly torn hip flexors (opponent pushed my knee way past my range of motion).
All of these were due purely to the action of my opponent except maybe the pec injury.
I've also been eye-poked, headbutted, kicked in the nuts.

This seems like quite a lot for just 20 classes, and so probably only about 40 sparring rounds of 5 minutes each.
I don't see how it's sustainable to have this injury rate (not to mention the possibility of the next inury being something truly severe or permanent).
Am I wrong, is this a normal frequency?

I'm out of action >50% of the time and it obviously effects my life outside BJJ too (e.g. after most recent injury I couldn't walk for a week).
Meanwhile I have not injured or hurt any of my sparring partners.

The teacher's usual reaction to seeing anyone get injured or hurt is to make light of it; he often laughs at and make fun of the person rolling around in pain (I've seen him do that to a guy who couldn't get up for about 5 minutes after getting hurt).
I don't remember seeing him ask people what happened or having a word with the person who caused the injury.

Seems odd to me, but again, maybe I'm wrong and this is normal in the world of BJJ?

Have already tried changing gym in my town, but they all seem to be similar in culture/attitude of teacher & students.
Time to emigrate?

Cheers
 

Tony Dismukes

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BJJ instructor here, with 24 years of experience. This is not normal, nor should it be. With that rate of injury, training for a long time will not be sustainable.

Without having watched you roll, I can't tell how much of the injuries might be your fault (waiting too long to tap, rolling too rough and provoking a response) vs the fault of your training partners (cranking submissions too fast, not controlling their weight on top of you). Either way, you shouldn't continue like that.

I would normally suggest that you talk to your teacher and ask for feedback to see if there's anything you are doing wrong to get hurt so much. But the way you describe his reaction to people getting hurt is a huge red flag. BJJ is a combat sport and injuries will happen. But part of the job of an instructor is to work on keeping those injuries to an absolute minimum.

I would strongly encourage you to check out other schools to see if they have a better culture with regard to safety. In the meantime, tap early, tap often, don't go any harder with your training partners than you are prepared for them to go with you, and seek out training partners who move with control and awareness of your safety.
 

Tony Dismukes

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I just looked and realized that you posted a year ago about the incident where you got your rin broken. Based on your description of that class, I would place the blame on the instructor. Are you still at the same gym or are you training at a new place now?
 

dunc

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In jjust 20 classes I've been injured in sparring 4 times:
1) Broken rib
2) Torn pec
3) Neck muscle tear (from "can-opener")
4) Badly torn hip flexors (opponent pushed my knee way past my range of motion).
All of these were due purely to the action of my opponent except maybe the pec injury.
I've also been eye-poked, headbutted, kicked in the nuts.

This seems like quite a lot for just 20 classes, and so probably only about 40 sparring rounds of 5 minutes each.
I don't see how it's sustainable to have this injury rate (not to mention the possibility of the next inury being something truly severe or permanent).
Am I wrong, is this a normal frequency?

I'm out of action >50% of the time and it obviously effects my life outside BJJ too (e.g. after most recent injury I couldn't walk for a week).
Meanwhile I have not injured or hurt any of my sparring partners.

The teacher's usual reaction to seeing anyone get injured or hurt is to make light of it; he often laughs at and make fun of the person rolling around in pain (I've seen him do that to a guy who couldn't get up for about 5 minutes after getting hurt).
I don't remember seeing him ask people what happened or having a word with the person who caused the injury.

Seems odd to me, but again, maybe I'm wrong and this is normal in the world of BJJ?

Have already tried changing gym in my town, but they all seem to be similar in culture/attitude of teacher & students.
Time to emigrate?

Cheers
Blimey - No this level of injury is not usual or necessary to become good
I've been training for 12 years or so, sparring every day of the week and aside from the usual bumps and twists only had to take a few weeks off the mats from injury

Some gyms (in my experience usually the ones with less technical skill) do have a culture of going hard at it all the time which can lead to injuries
In these kind of places &/or with those kind of people it is possible to train in a way that pretty much minimises your risk of injury
Essentially find a safe training partner who wants to become technically proficient vs beating the crap out of their partner, and if you have to roll with someone you don't trust to roll safe then either play defence or completely dominate, but avoid anything in between

I hope this helps
 
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TheExperimenter19

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I just looked and realized that you posted a year ago about the incident where you got your rin broken. Based on your description of that class, I would place the blame on the instructor. Are you still at the same gym or are you training at a new place now?

I changed to a new gym, in which the attitude of the students and the teacher is better than the first gym (where I broke my rib).

But it seems that the new gym is just less terrible than the first one, rather than actually being a decent gym. Seems to be a lot of injuries happening, that don't really get talked about.

It seems to me that every gym in my city has an instructor who doesn't care about safety and they all seem to lack maturity for some reason. I've visited about 4 different gyms and get similar vibes from all of them.
I can't say for sure, because I can't remain a member long enough in any of them without getting injured.

On your question about tapping - I don't think I had a chance to, for at least 3 of the injuries:
For the neck injury / can opener attach - he was in my closed guard and suddenly reached behind my head and pulled very hard with both hands so my head went forward into my chest. It happened really fast and he let go pretty quickly but the damage was done.
Hard to see how I could have tapped.

For the hip flexor injury, a guy (blue belt) was in my closed guard and drove one of my knees into the ground with his arm and elbow, way past its range of motion. I think he had my other knee held open somehow. Either way, I couldnt move, and again, it happened really quickly and the damage was done (audible noise to add to the pain!) before I had any chance to tap.

Broken rib I described in another post.
 
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TheExperimenter19

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Blimey - No this level of injury is not usual or necessary to become good
I've been training for 12 years or so, sparring every day of the week and aside from the usual bumps and twists only had to take a few weeks off the mats from injury

Some gyms (in my experience usually the ones with less technical skill) do have a culture of going hard at it all the time which can lead to injuries
In these kind of places &/or with those kind of people it is possible to train in a way that pretty much minimises your risk of injury
Essentially find a safe training partner who wants to become technically proficient vs beating the crap out of their partner, and if you have to roll with someone you don't trust to roll safe then either play defence or completely dominate, but avoid anything in between

I hope this helps
We don't get to choose partners - the teacher allocates.
 

Buka

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Reading this thread is like a bad Twilight Zone episode. Ive never been in a BJJ school like that. Cant even recall hearing about one.

I wouldnt send an enemy to a place like you describe.
 

dunc

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I love BJJ, but its not worth destroying your body over
Also a big part of martial arts is the community and Im guessing youre not going to enjoy hanging with folks who lack the empathy to train like that
 

Hanshi

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Whether it's BJJ or any other martial art it's the instructor who is ultimately responsible for the safety of the students. Chaos in the dojo works to no one's benefit. The main thing I have always advised for students looking for another school is #1. Meet with the instructor first and decide if he/she will have your back during class. #2. Visit and watch a class or two before committing. No matter the level of skill of other students if the "vibe" isn't right just leave.
 
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TheExperimenter19

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Thanks to all for the responses - it's very helpful for me in deciding what to do next.

It can be less than straightforward to understand what's really going on when you've only done 20 classes, while at the same time I think sometimes the blame is put on the beginner as a default, which can make it more confusing for me.

Most likely I'll quit BJJ but would reconsider starting again if a different kind of gym opens up in my town with responsible instructors and members or if I move city/country. Will probably take up a different combat sport where injury is less likely/frequent.
 

Tony Dismukes

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I'm sorry you haven't had luck with finding a local BJJ school that is properly safety conscious. Hopefully one will open up in your area in the future.

However there are a couple of things to consider if you do find a better school down the line ...

For the neck injury / can opener attach - he was in my closed guard and suddenly reached behind my head and pulled very hard with both hands so my head went forward into my chest. It happened really fast and he let go pretty quickly but the damage was done.
Hard to see how I could have tapped.
I'm not excusing your training partner, because any sort of neck crank should be applied with careful control - especially to white belts. That said, it's actually pretty difficult to apply a can opener in such a ballistic fashion that the other person doesn't have time to tap. It's not like an armbar where you can fall back and have all the pressure hit in a split second. I strongly suspect that you did have time to tap, but you didn't have the body awareness to recognize that you were in danger. For future reference, if you feel your neck being bent without your being able to stop it or understand how to escape, don't wait for the pain. Just tap right away.

Once again, this isn't excusing your training partner. He probably shouldn't have been neck cranking a total beginner like yourself at all and if he was going to do so, he should have done it very, very slowly so that you had time to realize you were in trouble.
For the hip flexor injury, a guy (blue belt) was in my closed guard and drove one of my knees into the ground with his arm and elbow, way past its range of motion. I think he had my other knee held open somehow. Either way, I couldnt move, and again, it happened really quickly and the damage was done (audible noise to add to the pain!) before I had any chance to tap.
This is strange. When you originally mentioned the hip flexor injury I though it must be something like a banana split. But pushing your knee down to break closed guard is not a submission. It's just a normal part of passing. I've never seen anyone injured from it. I've never even seen anyone go "ouch" from it. Not even if they had tight hips.

This one isn't on your training partner. It sounds like you may have some very unusual restriction on your hip mobility which goes beyond the normal limitations of a beginner with limited flexibility. I'd suggest getting that checked out with a sport medicine specialist and maybe getting some sessions with a physical therapist before continuing any martial art that involved either grappling or kicking. That way you can also inform your instructor and training partners of whatever safety limitations you have.
 

Gerry Seymour

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I'm sorry you haven't had luck with finding a local BJJ school that is properly safety conscious. Hopefully one will open up in your area in the future.

However there are a couple of things to consider if you do find a better school down the line ...


I'm not excusing your training partner, because any sort of neck crank should be applied with careful control - especially to white belts. That said, it's actually pretty difficult to apply a can opener in such a ballistic fashion that the other person doesn't have time to tap. It's not like an armbar where you can fall back and have all the pressure hit in a split second. I strongly suspect that you did have time to tap, but you didn't have the body awareness to recognize that you were in danger. For future reference, if you feel your neck being bent without your being able to stop it or understand how to escape, don't wait for the pain. Just tap right away.

Once again, this isn't excusing your training partner. He probably shouldn't have been neck cranking a total beginner like yourself at all and if he was going to do so, he should have done it very, very slowly so that you had time to realize you were in trouble.

This is strange. When you originally mentioned the hip flexor injury I though it must be something like a banana split. But pushing your knee down to break closed guard is not a submission. It's just a normal part of passing. I've never seen anyone injured from it. I've never even seen anyone go "ouch" from it. Not even if they had tight hips.

This one isn't on your training partner. It sounds like you may have some very unusual restriction on your hip mobility which goes beyond the normal limitations of a beginner with limited flexibility. I'd suggest getting that checked out with a sport medicine specialist and maybe getting some sessions with a physical therapist before continuing any martial art that involved either grappling or kicking. That way you can also inform your instructor and training partners of whatever safety limitations you have.
I'll reiterate Tony's suggestion of finding a sports medicine specialist. Their response, approach, and treatment process are different from the standard GP or orthoped. They tend to start from the standpoint that function needs to be gained/returned, rather than just managing the pain until "recovery". They also usually better understand the risks and needs of physical activities like BJJ. A good sports medicine doc (and sport-oriented PT) who doesn't already understand your activity will take the time to gain some understanding. It's part of their training.
 

Talisker

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I have been doing BJJ for two years. I started at age 41 when the pandemic was over.

I started at a position where I was a total couch potato all my life, with asthma, overweight, liver disease, and all sorts of other issues. My GP suggested I try boxing. I chose BJJ instead.

In 2 years of doing this now. I have only received one injury and that was a blue belt reversing a side control to mount by jumping up and landing with his entire weight on one knee on my rib cage. I might have cracked a rib, I might have badly bruised it but I was out for 3 weeks and it hurt a lot.

However my reason for posting is in my school I have seen many fit and agile 20 year olds start BJJ and they in rolls go absolutely bloody crazy with speed, jumping and spinning all over the place,

When I watch them I always say to myself. He is going to seriously injure himself doing that. I just try and avoid them. And sure enough a few classes in they have snapped a shoulder tendon, broken a toe, broken a thumb and then they quit BJJ and don't ever return again. I have seen this easily 5 separate times now in my school. And my school is a very small school.

Don't roll like a maniac. Go slow. Don't roll with others acting like a maniac. Tell them to roll with the 20 year old blue belts if they want to go like crazy maniacs.

That will go as far as you can keeping you away from injuries.

BJJ is about learning the technique. It's a game of chess. Not trying to outfox someone with crazy rapid speed. That is not BJJ.
 
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TheExperimenter19

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I'm sorry you haven't had luck with finding a local BJJ school that is properly safety conscious. Hopefully one will open up in your area in the future.

However there are a couple of things to consider if you do find a better school down the line ...


I'm not excusing your training partner, because any sort of neck crank should be applied with careful control - especially to white belts. That said, it's actually pretty difficult to apply a can opener in such a ballistic fashion that the other person doesn't have time to tap. It's not like an armbar where you can fall back and have all the pressure hit in a split second. I strongly suspect that you did have time to tap, but you didn't have the body awareness to recognize that you were in danger. For future reference, if you feel your neck being bent without your being able to stop it or understand how to escape, don't wait for the pain. Just tap right away.

Once again, this isn't excusing your training partner. He probably shouldn't have been neck cranking a total beginner like yourself at all and if he was going to do so, he should have done it very, very slowly so that you had time to realize you were in trouble.

This is strange. When you originally mentioned the hip flexor injury I though it must be something like a banana split. But pushing your knee down to break closed guard is not a submission. It's just a normal part of passing. I've never seen anyone injured from it. I've never even seen anyone go "ouch" from it. Not even if they had tight hips.

This one isn't on your training partner. It sounds like you may have some very unusual restriction on your hip mobility which goes beyond the normal limitations of a beginner with limited flexibility. I'd suggest getting that checked out with a sport medicine specialist and maybe getting some sessions with a physical therapist before continuing any martial art that involved either grappling or kicking. That way you can also inform your instructor and training partners of whatever safety limitations you have.
Got it.

Quick hard can-opener in one swift movement = my fault for not tapping.

Trapping me and driving one knee (way) beyond its range of movement = not my opponents fault.
 

Tony Dismukes

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Quick hard can-opener in one swift movement = my fault for not tapping.
Nope. It's not your fault because you lacked the experience to recognize the danger in time to tap. (Which is why I said that your opponent shouldn't have used a can opener on you or at least should have applied it slowly enough for you to realize what was happening.) What I am saying is that there was time to tap - you just didn't have the awareness of the opportunity. I'm bringing it to your attention in order to improve the chances that you will have that awareness next time.
Trapping me and driving one knee (way) beyond its range of movement = not my opponents fault.
As you described the situation, then no it's not your opponents fault. The reason being that in 25 years of training with hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people I've never encountered anyone for whom pushing the knee to the floor while breaking closed guard is way beyond their range of motion. Your training partner had no reason to expect that to be painful or injurious to you.

If you have an unusual mobility restriction in your hip, then a good instructor and good training partners should be able to accommodate it and work with you to avoid injury. But they have to know the restriction exists in the first place. I'll repeat my suggestion to consult with a good sports medicine doctor or physical therapist to get a better understanding of the situation.
 

MuayJitsu

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Jesus匈ve been doing bjj on And off for 7 years and never had a major injury. Yeah I had the odd head butt and knee in the nuts but when youre grappling like that it happens But no other serious injuries. So either youre not tapping quick enough or its a rubbish gym
 
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