As any Brazillian Jiu Jitsu or BJJ practitioner can tell you, BJJ is a brutal full contact sport that involves brutal locks, tackles and throws. BJJ sparring sessions and competitive bouts are renowned for being vicious and as a result, injuries are commonplace.
While sprains and cuts are an everyday part of life for any BJJ practitioner, sometimes more serious injuries can occur.
In this article, we will be looking at how knee pads can help prevent injuries from BJJ.
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Why You Need to Use Knee Pads
A main feature of Bjj is the mouthguard. But the knee is one of the most important parts of your body as it joins your thigh with your lower leg. It consists of two joints; the first being the femur and the second; the tibia.
As the largest joint in your body, it is important to protect your knee from injuries. This is because as a hinge joint, your knee facilitates movement of your legs.
The very nature of BJJ as a combat sport means that sparring sessions and competitive bouts are extremely taxing on your knee.
Sudden explosive movements like throws and grapples mean the ever present risk of sustaining an injury.
This is why injuries like twisted knees and even broken kneecaps are quite common in BJJ gyms. Among some of the most common knee-related injuries suffered by BJJ practitioners are:
Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament or ACL is actually one of a pair of ligaments in your knee with the other being known as the posterior cruciate ligament. Essentially, ligaments connect bones to other bones and is this case, the ACL connects your thigh to your lower legs.
ACL tears are a common injury in sports like Karate, Kickboxing, Muay Thai and of course BJJ. An ACL tear occurs when your knee is suddenly hyperextended with great force. In BJJ, ACL tears can happen when one person attempts an aggressive single-leg takedown while his/her opponent is in the upright position.
The excess amounts of force being put onto the knee wrenches and tears the ACL thus resulting in an inability to stand and put weight on the affected knee. While minor ACL tears can be treated with plenty of rest, severe tears require operative treatment and physiotherapy. This can mean being forced to undergo physiotherapy for up to nine months at a time.
The Meniscus is the fibrocartilage strip that connects the knee to the thigh. Also referred to as a cartilage tear, having a torn Meniscus severely affects your mobility and results in you being unable to put any weight on the affected knee.
Meniscus tears are common in contact sports and often occur when there is a forceful planting or wrenching of the knee. For example, twisting your knee while resisting a tackle or falling in a manner that wrenches your knee violently can result in a torn Meniscus.
Besides being extremely painful, a torn Meniscus significantly affects your risk of developing arthritis.
Odonoghue’s Unhappy Triad
Besides being quite a mouthful to say, Odonoghue’s Unhappy Triad or the Terrible Triad is one of the most dangerous injuries that can be sustained in BJJ.
This injury occurs when extreme force is applied to a knee with a planted foot. This causes extreme damage to the knee and the surrounding area.
True to its namesake, the Unhappy Triad refers to trauma dealt to the anterior cruciate ligament, the meniscus and the collateral ligaments which essentially “destroys” the knee. After sustaining such an injury, one can expect to be subject to multiple surgeries as well as significant time spent in rehabilitation to fully recover.
Factors to Consider
Now that you’re familiar with the importance of wearing the proper protective equipment, you should be eager to own a set of knee pads. However, before you snap up the first set you lay your eyes on, here are some factors that need to be considered.
Even if you’re not a particularly dedicated BJJ exponent, it is crucial that your knee pads are comfortable to wear. Given that you’d be wearing them for an extended period of time, you should be as comfortable as possible.
Before making a decision, get a feel for the knee pads and ensure that they do not slip or are too tight. Besides this, knee pads should also be well-ventilated and flexible to prevent any awkward movement. Uncomfortable knee pads prevent you from being totally focused in the ring or at the gym and should not be chosen.
In order for your knee pads to properly protect you, they need to be able to fit properly. Should you find that your knee pads are constantly slipping, they are too loose and won’t be much good. On the other hand, knee pads that are too tight cut off circulation and can result in dizziness.
Hence, take the extra time to make sure that you knee pads are a good fit for you before heading into the ring.
Knee pads are meant to protect your knees from trauma and other injuries. Make sure that your knee pads have sufficient padding to protect you from a bad fall or throw. If you’re recovering from an injury or have been injured in the past, consider combining your knee pad with a knee brace for extra support and protection.
While this may be of no object to some folks, do note that overpriced knee pads may not be necessarily good knee pads. Forget knee pads that claim to be endorsed by the pros, instead speak to more experienced BJJ competitors for their opinion.
How to Clean Your Knee Pads
Just as your knee pads take care of you, you too should take good care of your knee pads. Hours spent at the gym tackling and falling naturally mean that perspiration or sweat is a serious problem. Coupled with the fact that knee pads are worn so close to the body highlights the fact that knee pads need to be kept clean.
If left uncleaned for a period of time, knee pads will start to smell foul and be a haven for any harmful bacteria. To prevent this, regularly leave your knee pads to “air” in the sun to get rid of any odor as well as to kill off any bacteria present.
Secondly, you can also toss your knee pads into the washing machine to keep them clean. Take care to use the lowest setting on your machine as well as to wash the knee pads in cold water. This prevents the fabric from stretching and keeps your knee pads in good shape.
Knee pads are crucial for a combat sport like BJJ and you should take the necessary steps to protect yourself from injury by using the right equipment. It’s just as simple as the mouthguard. Or having the right GI. When properly used, knee pads can save you from an entire world of hurt.