My friend Brent “popped” his knee last night during practice. I wasn’t there personally but heard about it from him. He got it checked out and there was some MCL damage. Nothing serious, yet in light of it I thought it best to throw out some basic tips and warning signs to watch out for.
The most pro-active step to ensure that injuries hardly occur is to focus on strength. Now this may fly against the “strength isn’t necessary to succeed in jiu-jitsu” mentality, but proper strength does have its benefits.
Let’s focus on knee injuries for now.
Strengthening all the major muscle groups, and supporting muscles and tissues will lower the chances of an injury. Furthermore, weight training should be applied in an intelligent manner, never blindly. This means that rushing into a gym to do three sets of leg presses till failure or going out running to make gains isn’t the best way of approaching strength.
Exercises should not be solely be quad-dominant, but should especially target the posterior chain as well. The posterior chain includes the hamstrings, glutes (hips) and lower back, and is directly tied to the knee providing support and stablization. The squat and the deadlift are excellent posterior chain exercises.
Other posterior chain exercises include pull-throughs, good mornings and ham-glute raises. Having any or, better still, all of these exercises in your workout routine would be a good step in guarding against knee injuries.
A history of injuries can be viewed as a way to prevent them as it is a very good indicator of potential future occurrances. Think about it, an injury means an inability to perform at 100%, and any machismo attitude of “training through an injury” is traumatic and damaging in the long run.
There are instances of injuries caused by direct impact – two people collide with great force leaving one person with a torn tendon or a broken bone – however most cases are due to wear and tear. The muscles and tissues are not strong and healthy enough to perform at the desired level, so something gives. An injury should be given ample time to heal and allowing the body to completely recover is very important.
Massages and soft tissue work with either a foam roller or tennis balls are other ways to improve the quality of muscles and overall tissue health. Ideally, these can be done after a workout or any activity for the best results possible and to speed recovery although just taking the time to include enough rest and recover will prolong the amount of time we dedicate to training or to the active things we enjoy.
And in the case of jiu-jitsu, let’s hope that it’s lifelong.