#146 IBJJF's Asian Open Report; Rib Injuries in BJJ with Doc

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Team winners from the 2008 Asian Open of Jiu-Jitsu. Gold: Paraestra, Silver: Gracie Barra, Bronze: Team Purebred / Lloyd Irvin.

On Tuesday we presented a write-up of the 2008 Asian Open of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by Steve Roberto (Purebred / Lloyd Irvin) as a part of our Tournament Review Tuesday series here on TheFightWorksPodcast.com. In this week’s episode of Brazilian jiu-jitsu radio, The FightWorks Podcast speaks with the black belt absolute division winner of the 2008 Asian Open, Mike Fowler and his teammate from Purebred / Lloyd Irvin in Guam, Stephen Roberto. I did not plan it this way but what better way to wind down the last three weeks’ emphasis on jiu-jitsu in Asia?

In our second piece in the show this week, we will hear from The FightWorks Podcast’s medical resident expert (and purple belt in BJJ!) Doctor Aaron Schneir, who is an emergency medicine doctor here in San Diego. We are going to learn about rib injuries in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, from how they happen, how long you should stop training, and other details to keep you healthy training BJJ!

Finally, we will have another of our conversations with Andrew Correa, who as served as a referee for ADCC and the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation, about awarding points in a specific scenario in jiu-jitsu competition.

Don’t forget that you can contact us to get your questions answered here on The FightWorks Podcast: BJJ Radio too! Just call (877) 247-4662!

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The FightWorks Podcast: Okay everybody we are here in the FightWorks Podcast Mobile Recording Studio in San Diego with Doctor Aaron Schneir, aka “Doc”, our resident medical expert on our Brazilian jiu-jitsu radio show. How are you Doc?

Doctor Aaron Schneir: Good, thanks for having me again.

The FightWorks Podcast: We’re glad you could join us. We’ve gotten a couple of inquiries about rib injuries lately and as they pertain to our lives in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Everybody at some points gets beat up jiu-jitsu, so today we’re going to utilize your vast knowledge of emergency medicine and jiu-jitsu to help our listeners, so I thought we would kick it off with a couple calls we got from listeners.

Doctor Aaron Schneir: Okay well the first question is just about floating rib injuries. I suspect that people are using that, you know, the layperson, I’m not sure they’re referring to the same thing we are. So I am just going to go over this real quickly. There are twelve ribs on either side. Two of them you could call “hanging” are actually not attached to cartilage. They’re at the bottom and are ribs number eleven and twelve. They just kind of jut out on the side on your flanks on your rib cage on either side. They do not go back around to your chest. Physicians would refer to those as floating ribs. Those could certainly be injured. I suspect those are pretty unusual to injure other than through blunt trauma, and what I mean by that is if you fall on your back in jiu-jitsu, if somebody punches you really hard in that area…

The FightWorks Podcast: Maybe [if you are hit by] a knee?

Doctor Aaron Schneir: A knee in your side could certainly do that. Those are the floating ribs. I think the terms get confused when you get a broken rib on two sides and you could refer to that piece as “floating”. So I think there are different names that are used. I think the common thing with rib injuries and broken ribs are that they suck for jiu-jitsu, because they can definitely happen doing jiu-jitsu and they are quite painful unfortunately, and they last a long time. In addition they are very difficult to train with. I think it’s one of the harder injuries to train with because no matter how tough you are laughing, coughing, moving, can all make worse the symptoms. In jiu-jitsu when you have an injury that was described by both of those [callers] you are looking at four to six weeks until you are better. The challenge is training early after that and potentially re-injuring that. So they are really challenging injuries. I think the other thing is that you have muscles between them, your intercostal muscles. When you twist really fast, certainly those could be injured as well. I think everybody has seen when at jiu-jitsu where someone makes a sudden twisting movement of their torso and then BAM suddenly has an injury to their torso. Most likely that’s not actually a broken rib though it potentially could be. But it’s probably an intercostal muscle injury, or an injury of the muscles overlying that like the obliques or an abdominal muscle. A lot of this can be difficult to sort out. But they really hurt. The person referred to where the ribs are inserting into the sternum, your breastplate right in front of your chest. That is interesting I wonder how he injured that. Certainly a good knee in the stomach could injure that.

The FightWorks Podcast: What if you are getting stacked up?

Doctor Aaron Schneir: Yeah that could as well. Anytime where you are moving one way and get jerked another way could definitely cause these type of injuries. They really hurt. I know they frustrated me. You try to come back and every movement hurts. You pretty much have to wait them out. In general you’re not going to damage yourself a lot more by having those type of injuries and coming back and training but it is going to delay the healing.

The FightWorks Podcast: It sounds like from what you are saying is that the only thing to do to make it better is to take time off.

Doctor Aaron Schneir: I would say so. You can certainly take pain medication. One thing is, unless it’s caused by quite a bit of force, in general you probably don’t necessarily need to go to the doctor. We don’t look for fractures in x-rays so much. That’s really not why we do an x-ray. It’s more to make sure you don’t have an underlying, like, partially collapsed lung. So if you were to have an injury like that, it can be very difficult to distinguish that. Certainly if you are short of breath, and you can’t catch your breath [after the injury happens] you should go seek medical attention. Or if it is just unbearable pain, pain that is just not getting better, [it is] getting worse, it is reasonable to go see [a doctor]. With major injuries you can injure your spleen or liver, things that are underlying, so you just use your common sense. But for the vast majority of the questions about [rib injuries in BJJ] they are really not like that. They’re just having a sudden injury, it is hurting them, they’re not in that much pain but they are more just pissed off that they can’t train. They come back early and hurt. I know I broke ribs snowboarding. I re-injured them doing jiu-jitsu. You can take pain medication. Things like ibuprofen, like an anti-inflammatory. You can use ice early on. But they are really challenging injuries for jiu-jitsu because you’re using your whole body.

The FightWorks Podcast: So this is one of the worst recommendations we want to hear, but you just have to stop [training jiu-jitsu].

Doctor Aaron Schneir: Yeah you can try coming back but I think your body is going to kind of limit your ability to train…

5 Replies to “#146 IBJJF's Asian Open Report; Rib Injuries in BJJ with Doc”

  1. I “popped” my ribs last night during training. As I read a little bit more about rib injuries I think it could be my intercostal muscles that are affected. It has “popped” in and out everytime I’ve tried to get into my car today.

  2. Really helpful. Popped a left side hanging rib just by having heavy bjj sparring partner. Pop with no pain and then gradually got more soar with time. Intercostal sounding? I agree, you work out so hard only to have something as stupid as a heavy sparring partner lay on your side and pop goes the injury.

    Thanks again,


  3. Last week, in literally my first class, a big roller passed to my open guard and then crazily put all his weight ( must’ve ) been 240, on my rib cage. It hurt immediately near my curved lower ribs. I took over a week off but it happened again. I have heard insane stories about people actually targeting the ribs from top position. I think all you can do is keep both your elbows tucked in and over your ribs and defend them much like a boxer would when not initiating a move. Also, neutralize being stacked by spinning to one side and play half guard. This is especially important against larger, heavier opponents.

  4. The exact same thing happened to me on Monday night. I’m 6’1”around 200 lbs. One of my instructors old students came back and he partnered him with me. This guy is 6’5″ about 240 or 250lbs. We were practicing take downs etc. Where I would allow him to take me down and get me in a headlock, then I would practice several ways getting out of the head lock. During the process he put his weight into my chest. I didn’t hear a pop or anything but it was a sharp pain at the curve on my left side below the sternum. it doesn’t hurt when I breath or anything just when I push on it or during compression. The above comments helped thank you. Is there not some kind of circular rib protector that can protect against compression moves from an opponent? There has to be something.

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