Rib Injuries in BJJ: Can They Be Avoided & How To Treat Them?
So you’re working super hard at practice, feeling on top of the world as you conquer your
partner. You think you’ve nailed the moves but then BAM!, you take a bad blow to the chest and
you know this is the beginning of the end. Rib injuries are never fun, but they are common in
BJJ, usually caused by hard takedowns and heavy tackles. It’s important to be aware of how to
spot a rib injury, and what to do to start the healing process. While it’s important to always seek
medical attention from qualified physicians, here are a few tips to help you spot common
Symptoms of Rib Injuries:
Usually you can identify a rib injury by hearing the “pop” sound it makes as soon as it occurs.
Suddenly, breathing, lifting, laughing, sneezing, and coughing start to become very painful.
Bruising can also occur on the affected area. Strong painkillers are usually needed to tolerate the
injury, but it’s best to consult a doctor before taking any further steps. X-rays will quickly
determine if something has been broken.
Treatment for Rib Injuries:
I hate to break it to you and excuse the pun, but there is not much to be done to treat a rib injury.
The best way to help yourself heal is to get plenty (and I mean plenty) of rest and drink tons of
liquids. Over the counter pain killers will probably not be sufficient to ease what could
sometimes result in excruciating pain and discomfort. Again, seeking a professional medical
opinion as soon as the injury occurs is the right course of action, especially if you start to feel
any problems breathing, experience shock, numbness and severe chest pain. Better safe than
sorry! For the first 48 hours, applying ice packs will help reduce any swelling and promote better
blood circulation. One of the downsides to rib injuries is that it makes you much more
susceptible to pneumonia. As Dr. Michael Kelly says, “The main thing is to protect the area and
provide adequate analgesic medicine to make sure you keep those normal breathing motions,
then wait for the body to heal itself.” Taking a dozen slow but deep inhales and exhales daily
will do wonders for the healing process. If you can’t take a single deep breath, go see a doctor
right away. Also, do not bandage or strap the area as this could actually promote infection.
Healing time for rib injuries is usually between four to six weeks.
There is no exact formula to follow to avoid getting a rib injury in BJJ. However, learning to
breakfall properly will dramatically lessen your chances of injury. Many people training BJJ
neglect the importance of knowing how to breakfall the right way, and get injured quickly, and
sometimes severely. Conditioning your body by strengthening your abdominal muscles along
with working on good flexibility can also help to avoid serious damage.
In conclusion, do not make the mistake of trying to be “macho” by returning to BJJ practice after
only two weeks following an injury. This will only worsen the injury and interrupt the healing
process. You have to wait out the process in order to regain your strength and give your body a
chance to heal. You don’t have to disconnect yourself completely from BJJ though. Watching
BJJ tutorials, maintaining your diet, coming to sit in and watch practice, and supporting your
peers are all things you can do while healing. Jiu-Jitsu isn’t necessarily a “smooth” or easy sport,
so take it step by step, talk to your coach, and slowly get back in the groove after an injury.
Written by Hannah Milic