Martial arts are a broad range of self-defense practices which originated in Japan, Korea, and China. Martial arts include Karate, Kung Fu, Judo and Aikido. Martial arts injuries can range from minor cuts or bruises to severe injuries such as a bone fracture or chocking. Martial arts injuries may be caused due to falls, contacts or improper use of equipment.
Common Martial Arts Injuries
Scrapes and Cuts
Scrapes and cuts are usually minor and heal with time. Sometimes deeper cuts may need stitches to prevent bleeding and infection.
Sprains and Strains
Sprains and strains are common martial arts injuries. Sprains are injuries caused to the ligaments (connect bone to bone) whereas strains are injuries caused to the muscles or tendons (connect muscle to bone).
The ends of a muscle form tendons, which attach to bones. Muscles contract to produce movement at the joints. A muscle injury, also called a muscle strain or a pulled muscle can occur during forced or explosive movements or while making sudden changes in direction. It often occurs when a strong force elongates a contracting muscle. A muscle injury can occur in the body of the muscle or at its junction with a tendon. The tendon can also rupture at its insertion into the bone.
A concussion, also called a mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) occurs as a result of a blow or an injury to the head. Concussions are common in people involved in martial arts. Usually, a concussion may be mild and does not result in long-term damage, but repeated concussions can cause permanent brain damage.
A fracture is a break in the bone that occurs when extreme force is applied. A stress fracture is a small crack in the bone that occurs from an overuse injury. It commonly develops in the weight-bearing bones of the lower leg and foot. Stress fractures result from a rapid increase in the intensity of exercise or martial arts activities.
Tendons are tough cord-like tissues made up of collagen protein that connect your muscles to your bones. Tendinopathy is a breakdown of collagen in the tendon resulting in pain along with a reduced range of motion and flexibility. Tendinopathy can occur in any of your tendons, but it is most common around your elbows, shoulders, wrists, heels, and knees.
Sever’s disease commonly occurs in young athletes. It is a painful inflammation of the growth plate in the heel. Growth plates are the end of bones in children, which undergo change and promote bone growth. During this growth phase, the bones grow faster than the surrounding muscles and tendons, causing tightness of the muscles and tendons, and pressure at the back of the heel. With proper treatment, Sever’s disease usually resolves within 2 months with no long term effects on the child.
A bursa is a small fluid-filled sac that is found between skin, muscles, tendons, and bones. It lubricates and acts as a cushion in decreasing the friction, rubbing, and irritation between these parts with movement. Bursitis refers to the inflammation or swelling of the bursa. It can affect the joints such as the hip, knee, elbow, shoulder, and ankle.
Radiculopathy or Pinched Nerve
Radiculopathy is a condition where a nerve root in the spine is compressed, producing pain or weakness across the whole length of the nerve. It is sometimes referred to as a pinched nerve or sciatica. It occurs most commonly, but is not limited, to the lower back and neck.
Treatment depends on the type of injury. Common treatment options can include:
- Use of prescribed pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs
- Rest and elevation of the affected hand or leg
- Application of heat or ice
- Use of a compression bandage on the affected area to reduce swelling
- Assistive devices such as slings, braces, or splints
- Ultrasound guided injection
- Range of motion exercises to improve mobility and strengthen muscles (physiotherapy)
Surgery may be recommended by your doctor if you do not respond to the conservative treatment options.
Martial arts injuries can be prevented by:
- Getting expert supervision for the use of protective equipment
- Learning the correct technique of martial arts moves
- Building strength by participating in swimming, running or rope jumping
- Eating healthily and staying hydrated
- Receiving first aid and proper treatment in case of injuries