Shoulder Injuries in BJJ

Fix Your Shoulder Pain

In BJJ just like in any sport, injuries are common- I actually now think they are part of the journey and possibly unavoidable. During your journey to Black if you haven’t had an injury you should buy your instructor a present !! Injuries generally make you wiser and eventually stronger and more skilful. I’ve had my fair share of injuries and I’m currently in the process of nursing a shoulder injury – its been a long and hard few months of staying away from the gym and not rolling – I know everyone says you should still attend – but watching other people train just hurts too much !!!

I’ve identified a few reasons for injuries:

1) Inability to control your wild white belt opponent.
2) Inability to control your ego against a more skilled opponent.
3) Not tapping in time.
4) Overtraining – BJJ – gym BJJ – gym BJJ – gym …..
5) Not eating well.
6) Not sleeping well.
7) Not drinking enough water.
8) Stress.
9) Not warming up.
10) Not warming down.
11) Rolling against super heavy guys.
12) Bad form in BJJ techniques.
13) Bad form when doing weights in the gym.
14) Working on a PC all day.
15) Not giving up a BJJ position or technique after a minute or so – don’t beat a dead horse or something will give – learn to switch techniques if one doesn’t work let it go.
16) Drilling the same technique too much putting straing on that body part and causing it to give. Drill but not past the point of injury.
17) Training when ill.
18) Training when hurting – if you have a mild injury you will make it worse and recovery time will increase exponentially- whoever said I train through the pain is silly – be wise know the difference between pain and soreness. My shoulder injury would have recoverd in days had I rested initially.
19) Rolling too hard to impress the coach !

This list is by no means exhaustive and the bottom line is you will get injured in some way or another. Again know your body and don’t rely on just BJJ training to keep you fit and healthy – there are many other aspects of your health that you need to focus on – but this means understanding how to train smart. At my age I simply can’t afford to be lax I really need to ensure I take appropriate measures to mitigate and reduce the risk of injury.

Going back to my current shoulder injury I’m not quite sure what triggered it but it was definitely due to a combination of bad weightlifting technique, lack of sleep, lack of protein rich food, over training, working on a PC for 8 hours a day and possibly BJJ ! I felt the problem in both my shoulders initially so assumed it was simply muscle soreness / tightness due to the weights and BJJ – so kinda of ignored it. My left shoulder recovered but my right just seemed to get worse especailly after each BJJ session. I’d miss a class – assume I was ok and reinjure it in next one. I also started doing a lot of stretching – too much – this was possibly my biggest mistake – during the initial phase of an injury DO NOT stretch it !!!

I then decided to take time off for a month – my AC joint was too tender and I was in pain every morning. This break helped and I felt a better – assuming it had healed enough ( 1 month is a long time ) – I returned to the mat – big mistake, it started to play up again and afte 3 weeks I stopped training and went to the doctors – (should have done this first) – he told me it was simple inflamation and would calm down with some anti-inflammatories / muscle relaxants – well it seemed to do the trick but as soon as I stopped them the pain came back – didn;t know what to do next – but from the research I was doing on line I’d come to the conclusion that the doc would simply pump more meds into me and do some half baked physio so I decided to make an investment in my health and bought a set of videos from Mike Westerdal an expert in getting rid of shoulder pain. For those of you who know me you know I don’t spend my money without weighing up the cost benefit so ….

I looked all over the web contacted some serious physiotherapists over in the US and came to the conclusion that Mike’s program would do the trick – you can find details here “Fix my shoulders” I feel for anyone who has a shoulder injury – I’ve been on his program for a about a week and can see a massive difference – the pain in the AC joint has gone I’ve regained some mobility – I need to buy the tennis balls and the roller to help the recovery – but at the moment I might be good to go in a few weeks – I still get pain in the mornings and have weakness in the shoulder after lifting something too heavy.

The rehab program is all about Reshaping the shoulder using a 3 pronged attack. The alignment, tissue quality and acitivation /endurance. So alignment is all about posture and opening up the space in the shoulder – helps get blood into the area and reduce impingment – tissue quality is all about the soft tissue and muscle and stretching everything up to allow for movement to be smooth and tension free – the final step is about the strenght, activiation and endurance of the muscles – you need your back muscles to fire – and not just sit there remaining inactive.

The program contains vidoes and a PDF instructional – perfect as a reference guide. The online DVD and PDF cover over 60 exercises and techniques to alleviate the shoulder pain. Trust me from my experience it works – so far anyway. If you have any sort of shoulder pain use this program to avoid it becoming worse and to get rid of your pain forever- you need your shoulders so take care of them.

You can find details here “Fix my shoulders

Another useful article on the subject of posture in BJJ can be found at