Martial Arts Injuries
Joe Fleming explains how to prevent and treat Martial Arts injuries.
Martial arts is a categorization of contact sports that includes judo, taekwondo, karate, and kickboxing. Tai Chi is a low-impact form of martial arts that has many health benefits, including physical and mental fitness. The other ways, on the other hand, are more focused on the competitive abilities of athletes rather than the health benefits. Because of the nature of this particular sport, it's not exactly surprising that the rate of injury is high.
What the statistics say
Among the different types of martial arts, karate contributes the most to the number of injury cases, accounting for 33% of injuries followed by taekwondo at 14%. The number of injuries is higher in males than in females with falls and jumps as the most common mechanisms leading to the injuries. Not surprisingly, fractures are the most commonly reported injuries, and the lower extremities are the most common site.
Another study has shown that the more experienced the athlete is and the higher the amount of time spent on training, the higher the risk of injuries. Athletes who are over 18 years of age had a higher injury risk compared to younger martial artists. This eventually leads to laying off training for at least a year.
While these statistics may seem a bit alarming, it is important to understand that there are always risks associated with all types of contact sports. Fortunately, there are safety tips you can follow to minimize your risk of suffering from martial arts injuries.
Most common types of martial arts injuries
The types of injuries largely depend on the style and form of martial arts you are performing. If it is not in full contact, the injury is usually associated with overuse.
- Bruises, cuts, and lacerations
- Fractures and dislocations
- Sprains and strains
- Skin infections
5 treatment methods to keep in mind
- If there is any injury or pain, immediately stop the activity to avoid doing further damage.
- Apply direct pressure to an open wound. Go to the nearest emergency department if the wound needs stitching and an anti-tetanus shot.
- For sprains, strains, and bruises follow the RICE method as first aid treatment:
- Rest and avoid moving the injured site unnecessarily.
- Put an ice pack on the injury to prevent swelling and minimize pain. Flexible ice packs are adjustable for different areas of the body, so it is better to use them for the best results.
- Compress the injury using an elastic bandage and apply splints as needed.
- Elevate the affected part above the level of the heart to help further decrease the swelling.
- For concussions, apply an ice pack to the head to reduce swelling. Go to the nearest emergency department or contact your doctor as soon as possible, most especially if you experience blurring of vision, intense headache, loss of consciousness, dizziness, and vomiting.
- Do not resume activity until you have fully recovered to prevent re-injury.
15 tips to prevent martial arts injuries
- Understand the risk that comes with your chosen martial arts form, so you can better prepare yourself mentally and physically. If you have an underlying disease, you need to get a clearance from your doctor that you are fit to train and participate in competitions.
- Build your endurance, strength, and stamina gradually but consistently. Do not overexert yourself when training as it can lead to injuries. Incorporate strength training and cardiovascular exercises into your fitness routine.
- Take it slow. Do not immediately attempt complex techniques if you are still a beginner. Gradually increase the intensity level of your training as you become stronger.
- Wear proper protective equipment when training such as headgear, mouth guard, or paddings most especially while sparring. Use glass guards or safety glasses instead of regular glasses to protect your eyes.
- Undergo training and coaching from an experienced coach. Not only will you learn some tips and tricks, but you will also know the essential techniques and the correct way to execute movements.
- Perform warm-up and stretching exercises. These will help loosen your muscles and pump up your heart and lungs in preparation for your training.
- Do not skip cool-down exercises after the training to help bring your breathing and heart rate back to normal. Cool-down exercises also help to remove toxins and by-products of muscle metabolism such as lactic acid. This can help reduce episodes of soreness later.
- Hydrate before, during, and after the training. This will replenish the fluids and electrolytes you lose through sweating and breathing while executing your moves. Keep in mind that dehydration can reduce the blood flow to your muscles and contribute to delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
- Most martial arts do not require the use of footwear. When going barefoot, consult your coach regarding the best technique to move about.
- Train under supervision even if you have been participating in martial arts for years. This is crucial when trying to pull off complex moves or attempting to do a particular technique for the first time.
- Learn how to protect yourself from falls as they can lead to concussions and fractures. Be mindful of what body part is currently at risk for injury when executing movements and techniques.
- Train in a well-padded surface with no other artists nearby. This is to cushion your body in case of falls and prevent collision injuries.
- Take regular breaks by observing a 24-hour interval between training. This is important to give your body enough time to heal the micro-injuries it sustained before subjecting it to another day of training.
- Cross-train by engaging in other sports activities. You can also hit the gym and perform resistance, flexibility, cardio training, and resistance training to improve your endurance and prevent overuse injuries. Do not solely rely on martial arts as your fitness activity.
- Consult with your dietician before losing weight. Some competitive martial arts have weight classes, so you might need to lose weight to quality. Unhealthy methods of losing weight will not only harm your health but also downgrade your performance.
Bear in mind that a critical point when participating in martial arts is to obey the rules and respect your opponent. Like any other sport, martial arts come with risks, and you need to understand what they are before giving them a go. Since there are several styles and forms, you can choose the type which suits you best.
- McPherson, Mark, and William Pickett. "Characteristics of martial art injuries in a defined Canadian population: a descriptive epidemiological study." US National Library of Medicine, BMC Public Health, 30 Dec. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3022864/.
- Zetaruk, M, et al. "Injuries in martial arts: a comparison of five styles." US National Library of Medicine, British Journal of Sports Medicine, Jan. 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1725005/.
- "Concussion." NHS Choices, 7 May 2017, www.nhs.uk/conditions/concussion/
- Cleary, Michelle A, et al. "Dehydration and Symptoms of Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness in Normothermic Men." US National Library of Medicine, Journal of Athletic Training, 2006, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1421497/
- Brooks, Adam, and John P Rodriguez. "Martial Arts Injury Prevention." OrthoInfo, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Feb. 2018, orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/martial-arts-injury-prevention.
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- FLEMING, J. (2018) Martial Arts Injuries [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/article309.htm [Accessed
About the Author
Joe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Passionate about healthy lifestyles and living a full life, he enjoys sharing and expressing these interests through his writing. To inspire others and fight ageism, Joe writes to help people of all backgrounds and ages overcome life's challenges. His work ranges from articles on wellness, holistic health, and ageing to social narratives, motivational pieces, and news stories. For Joe, helping others is vital.