Safety on the mats: How to be safe and minimize training injuries!

It is a reality of combat sports that training injuries are a risk. It happens to the best blackbelts in the world, and it can happen to you also.
Also, among mat athletes, there exists a danger of incurring skin infections (staph, ring worm,..etc.)

Here are 7 tips to avoid injuries while training.

1) Tap early to submissions
This one is so common, and yet is largely preventable.
You are caught in a submission and say to yourself, “If I just bridge a little more and turn I don’t have to tap…POP!!”

Later, with an ice bag wrapped around a throbbing elbow, you say to yourself, “I should have tapped.” Some of those injuries can malinger for weeks and months and provide a painful lesson to tap when you are caught and start again.

2) Warm up adequately
This is another one that is so common yet easily avoided.
You arrive several minutes late to the academy because of traffic, and decide to just jump into rolling.

During a scramble you feel something pull in your neck and now you have a training injury to deal with.
Before intense exercise, you need to spend a few minutes moving around to get some blood into your joints and increase your mobility.
There is a great saying that applies here: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
Don’t be tempted to skip this step.

The warming up time at GB Compnet 13

3) Do some specific stretching & strength and conditioning
Strength and conditioning expert and bjj black belt Steve Maxwell says that not only should bjj’ers spend time working the muscles that you use in your training BUT also the muscles that you DON’T use.
This is to maintain a balance between the antagonistic muscles groups and maintain flexibility in lesser used muscles and joints.

Imbalances between opposing pairs of muscles and neglect of smaller muscles can lead to chronic pain and injuries.

An example would be those little rotator cuff exercises you can do with a very light weight.
These exercises increase the range of motion in your unstable shoulder joint. They go a long way towards preventing shoulder tightness and insure against hurting yourself.

Read also: 5 Great Methods of Physical Conditioning for BJJ

4) Clean mats!
Skin infections are sadly not uncommon in some academies. The academy manager must ensure that the mats are cleaned often and sanitized properly.
The other part is that those who suffer from ring worm, must treat it and stay off the mat to avoid infecting their classmates.
Any open cuts and abrasions must be taped and covered with bandages. An opening in your skin can allow bacteria into the cut and infection can follow.

Rashguards, trimmed fingernails, and proper hygiene all help to prevent skin infections.

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 10.14.07 AM

5) Protect yourself in positions
Inverting is a great technique for those more flexible among us to defend the guard and even catch triangles and other submissions.
These positions, however, can place one’s neck and spine in a precarious position. If the opponent suddenly reacts in an unexpected way, the pressure and weight can come down in a dangerous way on the bottom player.

One of the students had an infatuation with inverting and berimbolo for several weeks. I watched a match against a wrestler where he was getting stacked up on his neck and shoulders.
The following week he was sitting slumped at the edge of the mat when rolling started. I asked him what was wrong?
He pointed to his neck and grimaced in pain.

If you are getting stacked while attacking a triangle and your neck is in a bad position, be safe by giving up the triangle and protect your valuable spine!

6) Injured? Stay off the mat
Want to know how to turn a mild injury into chronic pain?
Train before it is completely healed and keep injuring and aggravating it!

Sarcasm aside, this is very common in academies. We know that you are hungry to get on the mats and train through discomfort, but there is a line where you are doing more damage to yourself than benefiting by continuing to train.

The body is an incredible self healing machine, but it needs time to do its work.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 7.42.26 PM

7) Be aware of your surroundings
When you are rolling you must be constantly aware of your space. Other rolling pairs and walls, benches and pillars are environmental hazards that you must avoid.

Have you ever been rolling and had another pair crash into you, and you catch a painful knee to the back of your head?
Or witnessed someone execute a throw, launching their partner right into the wall with a crash?!

As intense and focused as you are on your roll, you must maintain situational awareness and protect not only yourself, but your training partner and the other students training.

Stay safe and stay on the mats!

Credits: Mark Mullen

Gracie Barra Black belt based in Taipei, Taiwan
Twitter: @MarkMullenBJJ