Those of us new to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu often wonder why we are getting hurt so much.

Well, the answer is…Tap. You are letting your ego get in the way.

You don’t have to be strong to turn on an arm bar or a triangle choke, you are using leverage to multiply your strength, but you need to be smart about your training to avoid injury.

So many people don’t tap (early on in their training) and sustain injury after injury (trust me, I was one of them in the beginning).

An article on shows a comparison between various martial arts such as wrestling, MMA, Taekwondo, and Judo with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and reveals BJJ to have one of the lowest rates of incidence of injury out of all of them.

Injury Rate per 1000 Athlete-Exposures:

  • MMA : 236-286
  • Taekwondo: 20.5-139.5
  • Judo : 25.3-130.6
  • Wrestling : 9.0-30.7
  • BJJ : 9.2

It references a study done on some 5000 participants in tournaments statewide across Hawaii, USA. BJJ practitioners sustained an injury rat of only 9.2 per 1000 participants (that’s less than 1% of all participants getting injured).

Though it may be safe, here are the 5 most common injuries on the mats and how to avoid them.

1. Knee injuries

BJJ injuries

Knee bars, leg locks, ankle locks, and heel hooks are becoming all too common in modern day jiu jitsu and other grappling sports.

Even white belts want to learn leg stuff (remember, where your head gets punched everything hurts).

When you first get on the mats go slow. I’ll say it again…


You’ve got to remember, this is like learning how to swim. If you go out in waters too deep you could drown.

When rolling with someone above you in belt, don’t hulk out on them. Just move and try to learn from their movements.

Most knee injuries don’t occur with higher belts, they happen when we roll with equal or lower rank belts who don’t know what they are doing or spaz-out and try to explode explode out of everything (or when we do this).

Time on the mats isn’t self defense, it’s T.R.A.I.N.I.N.G. Your life isn’t in danger… or at least it shouldn’t be (if it is, consider changing gyms).

Best way to prevent this injury: tap (early and often) and focus on the basics in the beginning.

2. Shoulder / Elbow Injuries

TravelBJJ_Shoulder_Elbow_ Injuries.jpg

When I was first getting started in BJJ, I thought that I could muscle through every move that my partner was throwing on, and often times I would hurt myself.

One injury in particular that was exceptionally difficult to overcome was a Kimora injury on my right shoulder.

I was rolling with a more advanced player who had learned dozens of more techniques than me by this point, and he managed to catch me in side control and begin to turn on a kimora. Rather than Tap when I KNEW that he got it, I resisted and fought the kimora trying to get out.

Long story short, my shoulder hurt for weeks and it wasn’t until I got with a massage therapist the day before a tournament that I learned how to stretch out my rotator cuff and get my shoulder back to normal.

Best way to prevent this injury: tap (early and often).

3. Spinal injuries

TravelBJJ_Spinal Injuries

Also known as Cervical locks, these can be dangerous and hard to recover from. If someone gets a bad triangle choke and misses this, often times this can lead to them cranking your neck.

Neck injuries are not the worst to recover from; however, they do usually mean that you have to take a day or two off from BJJ and ice down the point of injury.

Best way to prevent this injury: Protect your head and neck with your hands, position, and by just tapping if caught in an awkward position.

4. Rib Injuries

TravelBJJ_Rib Injuries

This is all too common in BJJ, with the knee on belly position and the constant pressure in side control you will start to feel the pressure on your ribs.

Be very careful which direction you shrimp when getting put in the knee on belly position. If you turn away from your partner (which is common instinct to do) then you will put yourself in a position to get damage to your ribs.

When put in knee on belly or side control you will want to shrimp away FACING your partner, otherwise you will crunch your own ribs (and then who’s fault is it?).

I did this to myself early on.

Best way to prevent this injury: shrimp away facing your partner, framing their leg. Alternatively, learn a proper pass, side control, and how to maintain top position.

5. Cauliflower Ear


Two words…This. Sucks.

There really is no way of preventing cauliflower ear except for wearing head gear.

You don’t need anything fancy, but you need something to pad your ears from getting smashed.

When the skin and cartilage separate from one another on the ear, blood clots to try and fill the void. Left unchecked, this can result in some ugly ass ears.

Here is the model head gear that I would recommend to get.
Head Gear for Wrestling & Grappling

Best way to prevent this injury: Once it starts, you really can only minimize it by just wearing head gear and draining it if it occurs. (which is what you want to do or you get those “fluffy” ears like so many professional fighters have…)

Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Dangerous?

Overall. No. In fact, it’s one of the best self defense martial arts in terms of practical, science based, self defense.

It is all too common to think that punching and kicking is the best way to defend one’s self in a self-defense situation but we have to consider that most injuries do not occur in the street rather during training to prepare for those scenarios.

So if you get hurt during training, then you can’t train. Which means if S*** hits the fan, you won’t be able to defend yourself if someone tries to mug you…or worse.

With BJJ, you can train 24/7, 365, because you aren’t just training your body you’re training your mind. And with countless films, video, books and articles online, you can read, watch, and practice all the necessary techniques at home and your local BJJ or MMA Gym to prepare for that scenario.

I will say though, that like all martial arts, there is a chance of injury. Though it may be slim engage in the art knowing this.

Knowing before you start may just help you avoid these common injuries and have longer time on the mats.

If you got value from reading this article, or you put into practice some of the strategies I wrote about here, then please share in the comments below and with your friends and family on your favorite social media. Also, you’re welcome to write to us in the contact us page if you have a story you would like featured on this site.

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