Common martial arts injuries & how to avoid them by getting the right fight gear
A recent Facebook advert from a well known "beginners" brand who built their business on Ebay before branching out to seek more widespread acceptance saw dozens of comments below it stating how their equipment was poor and in some cases caused injuries. Buy cheap in this business and you may buy twice but as likely you will also get injured.
Buying bad gear might lead to your instructor telling you to get something different, it may lead to your teammates refusing to train with you, but the worst outcome is it causing an injury, whether that be an immediate one or worse long term damage that creeps up on you after months, perhaps even years of using the wrong gear.
The amount of times I have spoken with veteran Martial Artists/Boxers who complain of long term injuries caused by the cheap fight gear they bought early on in their career are too numerous to mention and with the rise of non expert sales channels such as Amazon and Ebay, this problem has grown significantly worse in the last ten years.
There are two categories of injuries caused almost directly by Fight sports/MMA equipment; poor quality equipment injuries & incorrect use of equipment injuries. In both categories it's impossible to list all the scenarios which is why it is vital to purchase the best quality gear you can afford that is truly fit for purpose.
For the purposes of illustration though I will list a few examples of both of the above.
Common injuries #1 - Hands & Wrists (Boxing)
One of the most common problems which can be wholly or partially caused by poor equipment are hand injuries. Often this occurs due to either poor quality or poorly fitted gloves combined with poor regulation of either power or accuracy, hence often something that happens early on in fighters career.
I could write a whole article on gloves for MMA & fight sports (In fact I have done several click here but it still astounds me as to how often gloves are incorrectly used.
One common injury is damaging the knuckles by using poorly padded gloves in drills, bag work or sparring. Boney elbows or the solid cranium being struck by poorly protected hands can result in swollen knuckles and hands whilst repeated impact on the hands of striking a bad without strong protection can result in both short and long term injuries to the hands and wrists or even in arthritic joints developing. Heavier impacts, especially bone on bone can result in hairline fractures in the hands.
Common Injuries #2 - Fingers (BJJ)
Speak to anyone who has done Gi Jiu Jitsu for long enough and you'll discover finger problems are incredibly common. Constant gripping on cotton for long periods of time that is then ripped out of your hands will soon take its toll. Its essential you take preventative steps!
The major difference here is that the injury we are talking about is not so much caused by poor equipment but by lack of it. Three things will help.
- finger tape - Plain old finger tape will help a lot check out this little article on how to tape your finger for Jiu Jitsu - Use quality Empire Gym tape. The two common sizes are 1.25 and 2.5 cm tape
- Purpose made finger protection - This is a version of tape which saves tearing your hair off everyday and is a simple quick way of skipping tape. Check out our full range of LUTA Gear finger protectors here.
Glucosamine and chondroitin - Sooner or later we are going to start selling this but until then go find some from your nearest health food store. The one supplement that will help Jiu Jitsu players!
Common injuries #3 - Shins, Knees & Ankles
It'd be easy to start talking about common knocks such as teeth clashes or groin strikes. Whilst sometimes painful, using a mouth guard and even basic groin protection will eliminate most of the damage caused by these common knocks caused in Martial Arts. When it comes to shins, knees and ankles though unfortunately the same is simply not true.
A solid clash of the shin or instep against any number of boney areas including an opponents shin, knee, hip, elbows etc can cause more serious and debilitating injuries. Small bones around the ankle caught by a wily defence using elbows is a common way to make your ankle resemble an over ripe melon whilst using no or low quality shin protection.
I could probably write an entire article on why shin & instep protection is paramount when kickboxing (including the stand up phase for MMA) and how quality shin guards are an absolute game changer in this area.
However it is possibly even more important to mention as to why poor quality ones are like wearing a time bomb.
So.....Why is it so important that your shin pads are decent from the start?
When drilling or sparring the more advanced you are, the more control you have on how accurate you are with your shots and how well you regulate power. Two advanced fighters will be able to touch spar with no protective equipment at all quite safely. The same is not true of less advanced players.
The feeling of your shins being protected will often create a false sense of security and create a situation where less experienced fighters will actually throw more shots than they otherwise may have done, often with little or no regulation of their power. With poor quality shin guards this will very often lead to injuries.
I've seen people attain hairline shin fractures, swollen and or broken ankles and very bruised thighs mainly because they chose cheap shin pads from Amazon or Ebay.
The idea of buying cheap shin pads due to being a beginner is frankly like buying a cheap parachute whilst you learn sky dive.
Unlike boxing gloves where you can reduce the cost of the glove by electing to buy a glove with quality padding but made of lower quality outer materials such as with the REVGEAR Pinnacle Boxing gloves that use the same padding as the far more expensive professional S5, this is not so simple with shin pads.
Poor quality shin guards are often down to a mix of design and materials. I recently had a guy in the store buying £100+ shin guards after his experience with a well known so called "Entry level" brand that left him injured for 9 weeks.
In summary, make your shin guards quality a priority or don't spar or drill till you do.
Head Injuries & Trauma
I'm no medical expert but it's long been known that repeated blows to the head can cause a variety of issues in the long term. I think its safe to say the minimisation of such is a good idea.
Personally I believe keeping heavy sparring to a minimum and concentrating on good technique and accuracy are key in striking but you do have to spar, and every so often you need to spar hard, especially in fight preparations.
In short, if you do this buy a decent head guard of the sparring variety. Open face head guards are designed to reduce trauma a little but more to keep maximum visibility, their protective value is minimal. The sparring variety of head guard generally comes with far more padding and therefore far more protective value.