Injuries

“Why don’t you blog more about BJJ?”, a commenter asked. The answer is that I don’t think I know anything about it yet. But then I thought that not knowing anything about BJJ is where we all start. So I’m preparing a deep and meaningful posting about the learning experience.

But meaningfulness takes time, and meanwhile, Forlogos’ stiff neck made me think of injuries. He got his latest one from riding the subway doing neck stretches in public, “Look, I’m this really fit guy who works hard on maintaining his body even on trains, look at this stre— Aaaaaaargghhhhhh!”.

At least I got my BJJ injuries from BJJ!

A couple of months ago we were sparring and I was trying to shrimp out of side control just as my opponent was trying to go for mount. So I was lying on my side just as he sat down heavily on me: probably the last six inches were in free-fall.

Perhaps I should have mentioned that my classmate is 20st3 / 283lb / 128kg? There was a horrible crunching noise in the right-hand side of my back. I finished the class OK (you usually can after an injury, before things start swelling up). The next day I had to be careful how and where I moved, careful planning when bending down to pick things up, that sort of thing (this is what being 70 must be like). The trouble with backs is that most of their movement isn’t voluntary but part of the automatic process of keeping the body upright and in balance, which means you can’t tell in advance what is going to work the injured part. Limbs are easier that way.

I got a bit of flexibility back, and a few days later I was lying in the sun, everything nice and warm, I stretched deeply and slowly, and then there was a bit of a bang and suddenly I could move in very few ways indeed. Either something had just got back into the right place at last, and the system had to recover from the shock, or something had just got into the wrong place.

My worries at that moment were:

  1. I’ll never move in a carefree way again. This would be a bore.
  2. The physio will tell me I mustn’t do BJJ any more. This would be a catastrophe.

Sweet competent French physio girl – bit of massage, proper programme of stretches, 2 weeks’ rest – and I was back in training. My mate said, by way of apology, that he’d been trying to lose weight. The trouble is, he doesn’t need to lose much, only about 2st/28lb/13kg, and that wouldn’t really put him higher up on the list of people I’d enjoy being sat on by. (A former powerlifter, he does escrima, with the knives and all, and he’s incredibly light on his feet).

A few weeks ago we were doing forward breakfalls as a warm-up at the beginning of class, and I didn’t get my head as much out of the way as I should. Sheer, utter incompetence! Another crunching noise, and a stiff neck that didn’t stop me from training but made parking the car difficult. Patient stretches, bit of self-massage, and it’s a lot better than it was.

Otherwise something funny going on in the right arm in the bony bit between the triceps and the deltoid. It stops me scratching my back. I don’t know how that one happened and I hope that if I ignore it then it’ll go away.

How injury-prone is BJJ as a sport, anyway? A couple of guys in my class have taken up BJJ as a kind of judo-for-oldies. They turned 30 and were tired of getting injured by being thrown around in judo by hormonal 20-year-olds. The older you get, the slower you heal, so they made the switch to BJJ, where you don’t fly through the air much; and on the ground, if it hurts, you tap.

But I wonder. Do people accumulate a steady load of injuries, with new ones replacing the old? As I get older and presumably heal more slowly, I don’t like the idea of this very much. Or are most people safe except for the odd accident? I’d be interested to know.

By the way, bruises don’t count as injuries. A bruise is a boast. I count mine the morning after a class – all those fingermarks in the biceps – and I try hard to resist the temptation to wear a T-shirt that will show them off…

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