Training with Injury


Injuries suck. They hurt, they take a long time to heal, and most importantly, they prevent you from training. Knowing how to train around injuries is an important part of getting better at any sport, and this is especially true in grappling.

In the past I have often used tape, braces and other gear to protect minor injuries and stop them from turning into major ones (as discussed here, for example).

Major injuries are more tricky, because your number one priority should be not to make that injury worse. However, often there is still some limited training you can do.

For hand, arm and shoulder injuries, for example, you can tuck that arm into your belt (or grab your waistband) and work your open guard using just your legs and one arm. If your opponent passes your guard then STOP, let your opponent go back into your guard, and then start again. I have done this exercise safely with a cast on a fractured arm, and when that cast came off I found that I had really improved my open guard game.

As you may know, I recently injured my neck. A pinched nerve root at the base of the cervical spine has resulted in weakness and numbness down my left arm. A neurologist tells me that these injuries typically take 3 to 6 months to heal. Furthermore I’m not supposed to do any grappling nor lift any heavy weights until it heals.

Now being stubborn and foolish I’m going to partially ignore my doctors. I intend to continue grappling until this heals, albeit with several important caveats:

  1. I’m only going to do light rolling
  2. I’m only going to roll with people who have good physical (and emotional) control.
  3. I’m going to avoid any and all positions or techniques that put strain on my neck
  4. It’s going to be ridiculously easy to tap me out: just grab my head or neck and I’m going to tap right away

I also intend to do a lot of aerobic and anaerobic conditioning during my recovery, since running on flats, hills and stairs doesn’t seem to irritate the injury at this point. I’m going to do some light weights, just to maintain some muscle tone in my upper body, but definitely nothing heavy or extreme.

Also I’ve used this injury as an excuse to buy a couple of jiu-jitsu books and DVDs that I’ve been wanting to look at for a while now.

When I heal up I’ll still be in the grappling mindset, have great cardio, and be ready to go!

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