Can You Do Jiu Jitsu With A Bad Shoulder? Tips On How To Avoid Injury

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Jiu Jitsu student performing a shoulder lock

Everyone gets injured at some point, whether it’s your shoulder or something else. However, in spite of injuries like a bad shoulder, life keeps moving and we have to move right along with it. If you have Jiu Jitsu classes planned, then you are no doubt left with one very important question.

I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice in any way, shape or form. Listen to your body and if you feel that you may be injured please seek medical attention.

Can you do Jiu Jitsu with a bad shoulder? Depending on the injury and amount of time healed after a shoulder injury, it is entirely possible to do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with a bad shoulder. This is as long as you’re aware of the risks and remember it’s best to let injuries heal fully. Always consult your doctor first before returning to Jiu Jitsu training after an injury.

That said, it is very important to know more about what these things mean and how you can avoid them. Also what to do for when you do eventually end up getting injured.

Getting injured is a part of training BJJ, but you should still try to stay as safe as you can.

Common Shoulder Injuries

As mentioned, these injuries can be divided up into two main categories: Traumatic and Non-traumatic.

Traumatic shoulder injuries: Are the ones that you will feel extreme pain right when they occur.

Non-traumatic or atraumatic shoulder injuries: These types of injuries you don’t feel right away when they happen and will usually sneak up on you at a later time.

For example, if you don’t tap from a kimura or key lock and your shoulder gets dislocated, that is a perfect example of a traumatic injury.

With an non-traumatic injury, on the other hand, all you may notice at first is that your shoulder simply doesn’t feel normal and is sore. Then over time the discomfort builds up, the pain gets worse and it hurts all the time.

Different types of shoulder injuries

Credit WebMD

Dislocation If your shoulder is pulled back too hard or rotated too far, the top of your arm might pop out of its socket.

Separation This injury affects the joint where your collarbone and shoulder blade come together.

Fracture. A bone can break or crack if you fall or take a hard hit.

Cartilage tear. You can injure the cartilage (the rubbery padding) that goes around the rim of your shoulder joint.

Rotator cuff tear. Your rotator cuff is the group of muscles and tendons in your shoulder that hold your arm in place and let you lift your arm up overhead.

Frozen shoulder. This condition limits how much your joint will move.

Impingement. This happens when the tendons of the rotator cuff get pinched in the bones of the shoulder.

Bursitis. The bursa (a fluid-filled sac that cushions in your joint) can get swollen and irritated if you repeat the same motions over and over again.

Tips For Injured Shoulders

R.I.C.E.

Rest Ice Compression Elevation

This should be the first thing you do with most BJJ injuries, not just when you’re nursing a bad shoulder for Jiu Jitsu.

Sometimes a break from training, some ibuprofen and an ice pack is all you need for a mild injury.

With some shoulder injuries you may need to move your shoulder so it doesn’t lock up on you.

Frozen Shoulder

One of the most common causes of frozen shoulder is the immobility that may result during recovery from a shoulder injury, broken arm or a stroke. If you’ve had an injury that makes it difficult to move your shoulder, talk to your doctor about exercises you can do to maintain the range of motion in your shoulder joint.

Mayo Clinic

Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy is all the rave these days with cryo wellness centers popping up in big cities and celebrity endorsement from professional athletes, fighters and of course Joe Rogan.

You could try out a “Cryosauna” session where you stand in a machine that dispenses nitrogen gas around your body. This cools the surface temperature of your body to sub freezing temperatures to activate a beneficial physiological response.

A Cryotherapy session typically lasts 3 minutes and can reach temperatures near -250ºF.

Although the cryosauna targets the entire body there are cryotherapy options that can focus on specific areas of the body as well.

You can also invest in a at home cryotherapy unit for your shoulder, these won’t get to -250ºF but are a good alternative.

These use cold and compression to help reduce post-operative swelling and regain range of motion.

Check prices on Amazon for at home shoulder cryotherapy harness

Massage

Another thing that is almost always helpful for muscle-related injuries is a massage. Most massage therapists will know exactly how to help relieve the tightness in your muscles.

However, you should not underestimate how much of a difference you massaging your own shoulder can make.

Ointments and rubs

Also, there are ointments and things such as wintergreen that are great for caring for your muscles.

Lots of people recommend different things like Icy Hot, Tiger Balm, Bio Freeze, CBD, Penetrex.

Penetrex has worked the best out of all the different rubs I’ve used, only problem is it’s kind of expensive.

It’s about $20 for 2oz, you don’t need a lot and it helped me a ton when I hurt my knee.

Check Amazon for Penetrex

Go to a doctor

There is only so much you can do for an injured shoulder though, sometimes you simply must go to a doctor and have them look at it.

It is entirely possible to tear a ligament in your shoulder, and it is far better to go and have a doctor check then to let it heal wrong or, worse, to keep tearing it more.

Depending on the injury, you may need to have surgery for your shoulder. In most cases, your doctor can give you something for the pain and he may have you do some physical therapy.

You should always tell our doctor about your Jiu Jitsu training. Obey their directions as to whether it is safe for you to keep training or when you can go back to training.

Tips On How To Avoid Injury When Training 

Now that you have made it this far, you’ve probably figured out a couple of ways on how to avoid getting those shoulder injuries.

Some of these things may seem like common sense, but the fact that they are still some of the most common things that lead to injuries says something for them.

Careful when you roll hard

BJJ is a great, sometimes you can choose to keep it mellow and flow roll or sometimes you can roll hard and increase your intensity. When you’re in those hard rolls you might step up your tempo, use more strength or be more explosive.  

This is a common way that people get hurt when they are training BJJ. It may not happen every time and it’s not always your shoulder that gets hurt, but shoulder injuries are fairly common in BJJ and if you train hard you’ll eventually get hurt at some point.

Jiu jitsu can prepare you for a real fight, but you never want to hurt your training partners during practice. Don’t let your ego get the best of you and don’t let rolls get out of control.

Tap early and tap often

If you injure your shoulder in Jiu Jitsu because you refused to tap to a submission, you can only blame yourself for that. This goes back to the whole leave your ego at the door thing. Trust me, you’ll learn when you get hurt from not tapping.

When fighting out of bad spots watch for shoulder locks, it’s pretty crazy how fast a shoulder can pop before you can react.

Learn to fall

One of the first things that you should work on as a beginner is learning how to fall properly. This is a major thing that you should try to prefect in order to avoid getting shoulder and arm injuries.

Take some judo classes and get comfortable falling and being thrown, this way you’re better prepared for it when it happens.

Knowing how to land should become muscle memory and should always be something that you work on.

Build up supporting shoulder muscles

There are a lot of muscles that go into the shoulder which itself is basically nothing more than a ball and a socket. Since non-traumatic injuries are caused over time, the best tip for how to avoid this kind of injury to your shoulder is to build up the muscles around your shoulder. This is especially true of the rotator cuff and shoulder blades and the muscles that move them.

The best way to do this is to start up a regular exercise program for yourself outside of your BJJ training. Some Jiu Jitsu gyms have strength and conditioning programs that may focus on common muscle groups used in BJJ.

Keep in mind that your shoulder is connected to your biceps, triceps, pectorals, and other muscles all in the front of your chest and in your back as well. Therefore, you should work on all of these muscles in order to strengthen your shoulders properly. 

Stretch

You should also be sure that you stretch often, this will not only help with non-traumatic injuries but it will also help you with mobility, soreness and overall recovery. Just watch your pain and don’t over stretch if you’re hurting.

Check out a yoga class or find some stretches on YouTube that focus on the specific area that you want to work on, such as your shoulder. Check out Yoga For BJJ here’s a chest and shoulder stretching video they have.

Avoid rolling with “That Guy”

Almost every training group has one of those people in it who has no control when it comes to tempering his movements to avoid hurting the person he is training with.

If you are new to a gym, then pay attention to the person who fights all out every single time he rolls.

You are perfectly within your rights to politely decline if that person asks you to train with them, and most of the time no one will blame you at all for doing so.

Always let people know if you have any injuries, most people will try to avoid putting you in spots that could get you re-injured.

Watch Out For The Newbies

Along with making sure that you try to avoid training with “That Guy” you should also keep a very close eye out for people who are new to BJJ.

When someone is first learning Jiu Jitsu they can sometimes react in ways that are entirely unpredictable and downright dangerous and painful. Newbies sometimes have very little control and are more likely to end up spazzing all over the place.

You also will probably want to be careful training with a new person when you’re nursing an injury for that same reason.

Let people know how you want to roll

You should let your training partner know if you plan on rolling a certain way so they can be prepared for your level of intensity.

When someone is preparing for a tournament, they are trying to reach their peak performance and it should be an understood fact before you begin that the goal of the roll is to help their skills more than it is to win.

This isn’t specific to Jiu Jitsu shoulder injuries but make sure to discuss with your teammate if you plan on rolling with certain rule sets that include submissions or take downs that could cause injury.

Stick to the technique

If you’re drilling certain throw or submissions then you shouldn’t do anything else and stick to the move you’re drilling.

Not only is it rude to work on a different technique than what is being taught, you could potentially injure your partner by adding something in without warning.

Make sure that you are in agreement as to if you are just sticking to the technique you are working on and give each other a head’s up if you plan on trying anything else and let them know what you are doing.

Watch your surroundings

Lastly, try to make sure that you know what the people around you are doing too. You don’t want to be rolling right next to two big guys that are working take downs.

There’s always going to be accidents on the mats just do your best to avoid causing any if possible.


That about wraps it up, we hope that we provided good information and answered a lot of your questions on training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with a bad shoulder.

Thanks for reading!

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