I’m pretty fortunate. My injury wasn’t some crazy knee or shoulder catastrophe that required surgery and months of recovery and rehab. Instead, I felt a crunch in my right ribcage as my partner came crashing down on me at the end of a 30 minute roll. No one knows your body better than you and when you feel something like that, you instantly know that something very very bad just took place. I nervously checked my side and noticed an indention where there used to be ribs and also what felt like a bone trying to protrude outward like the scene from Alien. A hot panic set in as I wondered if something had pierced a major organ. I didn’t want to alarm anyone so I pretended everything was fine and made my way to my car wondering if I should go straight to the ER or take my chances and just go home. A quick Google searched made me aware of how common an injury this was in Brazilion Jiu Jitsu. Most people were saying that their doctor couldn’t do anything for them and just told them to take some Tylenol and rest. I decided to just go home. (I’m not recommending this to anyone, I just have an issue with going to the doctor unless absolutely necessary. I’m sure it’ll result in a ridiculous death one day.)
The following weeks were rough as I had difficulty doing anything. Getting out of bed was the hardest part, well that and opening doors. And just when I thought I was starting to feel less pain I sneezed and ended back at square one. You wouldn’t believe what you’ll do to avoid sneezing in this condition. (The ‘punching myself in the face’ option was not off the table.) Anyhow most of my internet jiu jitsu brethren said 4-6 weeks off to heal and they were pretty much right on. I sped up the process though by wearing a back brace around my ribs (thanks Jody), and doing light yoga after 2 weeks.
Going back to the gym has been cathartic. I have a renewed perspective on the blessing of being healthy because of how much time I had to spend off the mats. All my minor tweaks have healed as well in the time off. I was afraid of being hesitant rolling, since the last incident is still seared into my memory, but I just have to remember the lessons I learned from all this. I’ll quickly sum them up below.
–Just because you’re doing a lot of Jiu Jitsu, don’t forget to tend to your overall fitness. I believe a big part of my injury was due to my core being ‘less than optimized’ because I was neglecting my yoga. Sure BJJ is great for the core but we all get into our training ruts and can get lazy and/or complacent in our routines.
–Overtraining can sneak up on you. My partners will laugh at the idea that I was overtraining (3 days a week), but for me that’s a lot of mat time especially since I’m almost always training and rolling with heavier partners. A sign of overtraining (which I was ignoring) is mounting minor injuries. I had a weird knee issue followed by an ankle cut that wouldn’t heal followed by a stubbed toe etc. My new rule is to train 2 to 3 times a week but do more drilling, less all-out rolling (especially rolls lasting over 15 minutes) , and take a week off every other month. Combining this with my new fitness regimine will hopefully pay off in longevity in the art. I want to do this stuff for life!!!
–Don’t neglect the ‘little things’ that help you. We all know that our Jiu Jitsu journey is made up of a million little things that we do right, or do wrong and eventually learn to correct the mistakes. I stopped drilling with my jiu jitsu dummy a few months ago. Not sure why, I just stopped. I didn’t realize that choking the poor inanimate fella was increasing my grip strength and body resistance to pressure (his chest feels like a tree trunk). I’m sure my rib area was weaker because I stopped conditioning with it. So keep up the little things, they add up.
–Listen to your instructor. I had two different instructors tell me to allow my body to heal but nooooooooo…I wanted to be Roger Gracie tomorrow so I kept plowing ahead. This should be a no-brainer but listen to those who have thousands of hours over you. They’ve been through it all and thankfully because of what I’ve been through I can give my advice (to some punk who won’t heed it) someday too. 😉 Here’s to health, longevity, AND success.