Ethan Kreiswirth (center) and his assistant examine jiu-jitsu athlete Roberto Satoshi at the 2011 Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship. All photos courtesy Alicia Anthony.
by Ethan Kreiswirth
On Sunday the 2012 Masters-Seniors World Championships was held in Long Beach, California. The event saw over 1000 competitors aging from 30 years of age and upwards. Injury data was collected among competitors and included belt, gender, body injury location, and mechanism of injury (how the injury occurred). As in past, the medical area was adjacent to all mats for constant observation. Data collection was collected via four Certified Athletic Trainers (ATC) three Physical Therapists (DPT) and one PhD. Referees were informed that any potential injury was to have the medical team summoned to the mat, and or have the fighter report to the medical area for injury assessment and initial treatment.
In 2011, injury incidence data was collected, along with a pre event medical questionnaire to gather baseline characteristics of a fighters’ previous injury history, days’ per week of training, injury locations, along with a multitude of other questions regarding musculoskeletal injury. After analysis, data suggested that BJJ fighters who suffered a previous injury of any joint in the body were three times more likely to incur an injury at a large scale BJJ event. Additional outcomes of the 2011 study revealed that blue belt, in addition to the elbow joint, suffered the highest rate of injury incidence in comparison to other belt and joints. Lastly, there were no statically significant differences among gender with respect to joint related injury.
As a comparison, injury incidence data were collected at the 2012 Master-Senior event to identify injury differences among the two groups. While the 2011 event saw an increased incidence of lower belt ranks, the Master-Senior event discovered that higher level belts (Purple/Brown) reported more to the medical area. While the elbow joint was the most injured during the Worlds in 2011 due to the arm bar, the Master-Senior event saw a multitude of non-specific low back spasm, muscle strains and exhaustion, in comparison to direct trauma of a specific joint. As BJJ is novel in its approach to submit an opponent with joint locks, thus incurring a potential injury, the older fighter of the Master-Senior event suffered injuries that were not associated with submission.
A jiu-jitsu competitor receives medical attention.
Though there are a multitude of assumptions a reader could take from these observations, most BJJ fighters may agree that the sport of BJJ can be an injurious sport as training days, length of practice, and age increase. Interestingly, original data collection reported that two-thirds of all surveyed fighters reported a previous history while training, competing, or both. These data drive the assumption that the more one trains the risk of injury increases. Further assumptions of data comparisons may be that as we age, injury compensation, in addition to, early fatigue may be associated with injury. Theoretically, older BJJ fighters may not train at competitive levels as younger fighters. An older fighter has additional responsibilities, i.e., family, job, head of household, that may lead to the under development of proper conditioning for a large scale BJJ event.
Future data collection of comparative data, in addition to injury incidence in training setting, may shed light on injuries patterns and relative risk. Planning to reduce risk of injury is paramount to the success and further education within the sport.