Is Jiu Jitsu Dangerous?

One of the most common questions asked about jiu jitsu is whether or not it is dangerous.

It’s a common opinion that jiu jitsu isn’t dangerous as it is often considered a gentle martial art. 

Is Jiu Jitsu Dangerous?

As with any martial art, there is room for error in jiu jitsu which can make the art much more dangerous than it should be.

Today we’re looking into the statistics to get a clear answer to the question – is jiu jitsu dangerous?

Are Jiu Jitsu Competitions Dangerous? 

Looking into studies done by jiu jitsu competitors, there are a few injuries that stick out more than others.

Most injuries tend to be orthopedic, which is otherwise known as injuries to the bones, muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments. 

This means that while you might not get many cuts or bruises, you could be walking (or limping) out of the competition with a broken bone. 

One study found that there were 46 injuries for every 5022 match exposures. Overall, this statistic doesn’t sound very daunting at all. Here are the most common injuries to come out of jiu jitsu competitions. 

Type of InjuryNumber of Injuries (Out of 46)
Elbow (orthopedic)14
Knee (orthopedic)7
Rib or costochondral fractures7
Foot and ankle (orthopedic)5
Hand (orthopedic)4
Shoulder (orthopedic)4
Lacerations requiring medical care3
Hip (orthopedic)1
Cervical (orthopedic)1

Is Jiu Jitsu Training Dangerous? 

 Jiu jitsu training is much more common than competitions. Some people train 10 times a week if they are training in the martial art full time.

Compared to competing in one competition a month, training is much more common and therefore more likely to involve an injury. 

As injuries during training are more common as training is done more regularly, the research surrounding it focuses on a wider time frame.

Here are a few common points that multiple studies found to be true about  jiu jitsu training: 

  • The most common injuries during  jiu jitsu training were to the shoulders, knees, and ribs. 
  • Fingers, toes and feet, and arms and elbows were also very common areas for injury. 
  • Among 180 novice and advanced  jiu jitsu practitioners, shoulders and knees were the most common places to injure. 
  • Other injuries included skin infections, surface lacerations, and digit dislocations. 

A study using 166 participants who practice jiu jitsu found the following information on where these participants had been injured while  jiu jitsu training. 

Location of InjuryInjury ExampleNumber of Injuries
Hand/fingersFinger hyperextension or jammed finger70
Foot/toesToe hyperextension or jammed toe52
Arm elbowHyperextension51
KneeKnee pain or meniscus tear45
BackLower back pain43
ShoulderShoulder pain41
SkinRingworm40
Head/FaceBlack eye or cauliflower ear32
AnkleSprain30
TorsoChest pain27

As you can see, there are many more injuries in the Number of Injuries column than there were participants within this study.

This shows that each participant had more than one injury from their training. 

The same study also showed that 59.2% of these participants had suffered an injury within the last six months.

Another conclusion was that more experienced jiu jitsu practitioners were less likely to suffer an injury, although those that attended more training every week had an increased number of injuries. 

Is Jiu Jitsu Training More Dangerous Than Competition?

Yes, there is a slightly higher rate of injury during jiu jitsu training than there is competition.

This is true for novices, perhaps because they are less seasoned competitors and make mistakes easier than advanced athletes.

It might also be because they are attending more training sessions a week than competitions, making the likelihood of them sustaining an injury more likely. 

However, it was interestingly flipped when the study looked at advanced jiu jitsu practitioners.

Advanced players actually got injured more commonly in competitions than training.

This could be down to the higher pressure on them during a competition allowing them to make more mistakes.

Another reason could be that advanced athletes are less likely to make mistakes in training and therefore will have less accidents ending in injury.

Another possibility could be that they are training less time a week, giving them less chance to get injured. 

Here are the statistics that the study found concerning the experience level of jiu jitsu practitioners and their injuries. 

ExperienceInjuries During TrainingInjuries During Competition
Novice jiu jitsu practitioners54.4%45.5%
Advanced jiu jitsu practitioners33.9%66.1%

The Most Dangerous Techniques In Jiu Jitsu

One study found that the most orthopedic injuries within jiu jitsu matches were caused by the arm bar which then led to a takedown.

It is not surprising that this was the case, as an armbar can be rather forceful.

Both opponents have to be on top of their games to ensure that they are in the right position at all times. 

The arm bar was found to have caused 10 out of 14 injuries to the elbow, mostly caused by extending the joint too much under the pressure.

Most of these injuries were due to the opponent resisting the arm bar or waiting too long to tap out of it.

The added pressure that either of these two actions on the arm would make an injury much more likely. 

Summary

And there we have it! jiu jitsu can be dangerous if not done correctly, and there are certain instances in training and competitions that cause injuries to either opponent.

The most common injuries are orthopedic, and come from the two opponents not working correctly together. 

Novices are more likely to get injuries during training while advanced jiu jitsu practitioners are more likely to sustain an injury during competition.

Overall, jiu jitsu is most dangerous during training, most likely due to this being carried out much more commonly than competitions. 

While jiu jitsu can be considered dangerous in terms of injuries, it is one of the least dangerous martial arts out there. It is called gentle for a reason!

Christopher Anderson