BJJ After Surgery/Injury
For those who have been bitten by the BJJ bug, a protracted convalescence after an injury or surgery can be their worst nightmare.
When we’ve fallen in love with the gentle art and started to structure our lives around our training, an extended time away from the mats can leave us feeling adrift and lost. That loss, in fact, can almost compare to the loss and grief felt after the death of a loved one. In some cases, it can even bring on a bout of clinical depression.
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Given the prominent role BJJ plays in many of our lives, it’s not surprising that—when we face an injury or surgery—we want to return to the mats as quickly as possible.
On one hand, it often seems that doctors are overly-cautious when it comes to recovery times. On the other hand, rushing our return can make us susceptible to relapse or to another injury.
So, how do we know the right time to return?
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to that question. The best thing that we can do is make an informed choice.
First and foremost, this means talking with your doctor. If your doctor isn’t familiar with BJJ, this means explaining what is involved in training and rolling. But it also involves asking questions of your doctor. If they prescribe a recovery period that sounds excessively long, ask questions about it. Why do I need to take so much time off? What could happen if I return to training early?
In particular, you could (and should) ask if there’s some middle ground between inactivity and full-on training that would be safe.
More and more often, doctors avoid having patients bed-ridden for extended periods of time. Patients undergoing knee replacement surgeries, for instance, are asked to begin walking on the same day as their surgery. So, it is likely that your doctor would approve of a safe level of activity for you. The key is finding that safe level.
In addition to speaking and listening to your doctor, you should also listen to your own body. Some people recover much more quickly than others. If that is you, then you might try to schedule your follow-up visits with your doctor a bit earlier than he suggests. That way, you could possibly get cleared to resume training earlier.
On the other hand, if you are slower to heal than others, don’t rush your return. If a bout of mild activity results in unexpected pain, recognize the signal that your body is sending and give it more time to recover.
When you do finally get the go-ahead to return to training—whether in a full or limited capacity—there are still precautions you need to take.
This is not the time to roll with that spazzy white belt. Nor is it the time to roll with the guy who tries to destroy every opponent. This is the time to choose your partners carefully. Roll with the brown belt who enjoys flow rolling. Or roll with another partner who knows what it’s like to recover from an injury. They’ll be careful not to hurt you.
Also, just because you’re back on the mat, that doesn’t mean you’re good to go for every activity. If, on the day of your return from an ankle injury, the coach is covering takedowns, sit that lesson out. Your coach will understand, and you won’t be risking an even longer convalescence.
Finally, make sure you know how your injury happened in the first place. Have you failed to adequately warm up and cool down? Is there a problem in your technique that’s leaving you vulnerable to injury? Do you have a chronic condition that makes you more susceptible to injury? Or was it just a freak occurrence?
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You need to answer these questions. If you don’t, you could be setting yourself up for repeated trips to the doctor and even more time off of the mats.
In Jiu Jitsu, your wits and knowledge are your best weapons. And they’re also your best tools for preventing injuries and keeping yourself healthy and on the mats where you belong.
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