Training in Brazilian jiu jitsu is a fantastic way to get into shape and learn both a sport and a martial art. It consists of ground-based wrestling, using submissions to choke out opponents and put pressure on joints to force them to tap out. In jiu jitsu there is a safety mechanism called the tap, and its as simple as it seems: you tap when you feel uncomfortable and when you know you are about to be submitted. However, the risk of injury can still occur, and knee injuries are not all together uncommon, especially when practising take downs. This guide will offer practical knee injury rehabilitation, from the point of injury to building strength to get back on the mat.
Often in jiu jitsu the knee will get injured as a result of falling, which creates an impact injury, or after a takedown the knee can twist. Both of these situations cause strain to both the muscles and the ligaments and usually result in swelling and/or bruising. The first thing to do is to apply ice to the affected knee and raise it above the heart. This will limit the amount of blood flow, whilst the cold ice will reduce swelling. Swelling is the body's natural response to strain and can help to stabilise joints and allow white blood cells to begin repairing the injury. However, this can also result in a lot of pain, therefore many choose to ice the area, which reduces blood flow and dampens the signals from the nerve endings. Whilst swelling is the body's way of healing, it is far more effective to reduce swelling and minimise the number of harmful chemicals to the injury (known as cytokines). These molecules are used to signal to other cells that there is damage and it needs repairing; however, too many can cause inflammation levels that are harmful.
Once the knee has been iced, it should be iced periodically until the wound is healed. Elevating the knee on the sofa and limiting movement for the first few days of recovery is preferable. However, ensuring that you still maintain movement following this is crucial. You want the muscles surrounding the knee to maintain their strength and stability. Body weight strengthening exercises in the gym could help this, but be sure to stick with limited range of motion. Thigh contractions may also help and can be performed in the comfort of your own home.