BJJ can change your life but as a martial art it does carry with it potential injury risks, one is injury is to knee. Can you do BJJ with bad knees? I went to the internet to research the answer.
Always get a medical expert’s opinion on doing BJJ with bad knees but it is tough to do BJJ with a knee problem, as it changes from person to person. Strengthening your knees via stretches and exercise will reduce the risk of knee injuries happening, as well as wearing a knee brace when doing BJJ.
Truth be told BJJ is not the best martial art for people with Knee problems, but a lot of BJJ athletes including my main BJJ coach have knee problems. I will explain how to deal with knee issues and how to prevent knee problems from happening.
What Causes Knee Pain?
If your knees hurt and you haven’t had an injury then likely your knees are in improper alignment which is unhealthy for your knees and leads to injury over time.
The knee will hurt as the knee joint is located between tow very mobile points the hip(above) and the ankle below, to understand there’s some basic human anatomy to understand.
The knee is a hinge joint designed to flex and extend and is most resistant to injury when it’s in straight alignment, think you’re kneecap pointing in the directions of your toes to be your knees best position unfortunately in BJJ your knee will be in this position a lot making injuries fairly common.
Different Knee Injuries In BJJ
I will explain the different parts that make up your knee and what positions in BJJ will likely cause injuries to happen. Understanding why your knee hurts is key in treating the injury so you can be healthy in everyday life to prepare yourself for a BJJ class.
You need to address ALL aspects of the knee to reduce pain, prevent swelling, and stop early arthritis so pay attention to everything as your knee pain might involve more than muscle part.
Watch the above video of all the BJJ injuries and how they happen by Doc Bates a registered sports medicine Doctor who does BJJ!
The Tibia is a flat bone located under the knee cap and it’s where you should knee in MMA and Muay Thai.
MCL(Medial Collateral Ligament)
The MCL is a stabilizing structure for the entire knee, and injuries happen when there is outside pressure going inwards causing the knee to twist. In BJJ this during a knee slice when your foot gets caught or in a heel hook.
Check out this WebMD article about MCL, with symptoms and how to treat it.
LCL(Lateral Collateral Ligament)
The LCL is a band of tissue that sits along the outside side of your knee, which helps to hold the bones together so your knee joint stays stable. See this article by WebMD for more info.
This pain will be achy and can last week or even months after the injury, the sports Doctor in the video above recommends surgery as living with this injury is very difficult.
This injury happens from Da La Riva and Lasso guard as since your on the bottom position if your legs twist outward this can cause an injury.
I’ve never had severe knee pain in BJJ but I’ve had knee cap pain from single and double leg takedowns, as your knee is under a lot of force quickly. Check out the WebMD article on Patella health here.
Bursa is a fluid-filled sac that when inflamed can cause pain and limit your mobility, it can occur anywhere on the knee most but most commonly occurs over the kneecap or on the inner side of your knee below the joint.
Bursa fluid responds well to ice and wearing a knee brace such as this high-quality shock doctor Prophylactic Brace from Amazon is key to stopping inflammation and allowing the bursa to heal.
For more information on Bursa knee injuries check out WebMD’s article here.
ACL(Anterior Cruciate Ligament)
ACL is the most well-known knee injury, super common in sports like Basketball and Soccer. The ACL holds the bones together with your knee and is crucial in keeping your knee stable.
When people have ACL injuries or recover after surgery they say that their knee is unstable, generally, it takes around 6-12 months to recover from an ACL injury.
How Do You Prevent Knee Injuries In BJJ?
Did you know that having tight hips is a BIG reason why you might have knee pain? Let me explain, there are two ways the femur can rotate within the hip joint.
Your hip can open towards the outside(external hip rotation), and your hip can open towards the inside (internally). Hip rotation is used all the time in BJJ from guard retention to shrimping.
If your hips are tight this causes more damage to the knees as the hip is a ball and socket joint designed to be mobile, if your hips can’t reach the places they should be your body will compensate in other areas namely the lower back and knees.
You can see an amazing hip mobility routine in the video above that will reduce your knee pain and improve your overall health and well being.
Strengthening the lower body muscles correlate to less leg muscle injuries, see this article by PubMed that muscle strength is even more important than flexibility to prevent injuries! I’ve noticed this as well with posture imbalances being corrected by building muscle in my own life.
See this article by SAMS(Journal Of Science & Medicine) that showcased higher quadriceps strength with a lower risk of knee injuries in Judo athletes a sport very similar to BJJ.
Strengthening the glutei(butt muscles) and hamstrings(muscles behind the leg) are key in preventing knee injuries and having strong hamstrings should prevent horrible ACL tears.
See PubMed here on how stretching and flexibility have a low rate of preventing injuries by themselves, as strengthening has a much better rate in preventing injuries.
Exercises To Reduce Knee Injuries
- Side Plank
- Glute Bridge
- Single let exercise(single-leg Romanian deadlift), single-leg squat
- Hamstring Bridge
- Nordic hamstring curls
- Romanian Deadlift
Do Knee Braces Work?
Knee braces are inexpensive and comfortable to wear, and I see a lot of people including my head BJJ coach wear them but are they an effective treatment to protect injury?
- Structural support
- Pain relief
Knee braces are recommended for people who had an ACL tear or a type of knee injury, they can provide added support in the recovery process. As they keep the knee stabilized and the knee supported.
Knee braces are commonly prescribed by physicians for patients who have an ACL tear or some type of knee injury. The knee brace can provide added support during the recovery process.
For BJJ, you want a Prophylactic Brace that is designed to prevent injury to the knees. You can get a high-quality shock doctor Prophylactic Brace for an amazing price on Amazon here. See a product review of someone whose life changed due to the shock doctor brace below.
Why Buy A Knee Brace?
- Which ligaments of your knee are damaged? (See above)
- what rehabilitation are you doing or need to do
- What sport are you doing
This quote is from Michael James Behr and he said the following about knee braces and sports, but remember he’s talking about Football which has very different movements patterns to BJJ.
“A knee brace can help athletes through an injury by providing additional support that will allow him or her to continue with physical activity,” Dr Behr says. “Today, many football players wear knee braces to prevent injury. Football players put an extra amount of pressure on their knees because of the sharp turns and lateral movement in this sport. All this movement can move your bones and ligaments in unnatural ways. Knee braces have proven to be a wise preventative measure in this particular sport.”Michael J. Behr, M.D
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