Injury in Martial Arts
Martial Arts training, by its very nature, can place the exponent in a variety of situations where an injury may occur, whether it be in competition, training or during demonstrations and gradings. Injuries and their causes can be many and varied, and hence the precautions taken to minimize injury are also many.
The types of Injury can basically be divided into 2 categories.
Cumulative Injury (chronic)
These injuries can occur at any time, and over a period of time (chronic), due to lack of warm-up or poor warm up routine, incorrect execution of technique, lack of stretching or over-stretching, forceful ballistic movements, training on inappropriate surfaces, training in extreme conditions, and so on.
These could include a range of things such as muscle strains or tears, joint sprains and ligament damage, stress fractures from over-training, shin splints and dehydration.
The most common injuries in this regard are:
- hamstring and groin strains/tears due to the degree of high kicking in particular
- sprained knees, or more serious knee ligament damage, due to the forceful rotation of spinning kicks, particularly when training on high-friction surfaces or in rubber shoes
- tendonitis in elbows, shoulders, hips and knees can occur from continual powerful practice of patterns and fundamental movements where the techniques are snapped forcefully in the air (without a target), placing strain on the tendons and joints.
Traumatic Injury (acute)
These injuries are generally caused by impact related events or traumas, whether the exponent is struck by another exponent or object, or even when the exponent strikes another person or object (e.g. breaking boards, tiles…etc). These types of injuries can range from bruising, skin lacerations, fractured or broken bones, concussion and even internal organ damage (e.g. Eyes, punctured lungs, damaged kidneys)
The degree of injury is largely determined by the amount of force used and the nature of the site of the trauma.
Common types of injuries in this category include:
- broken nose from a forceful kick or punch to face
- fractured carpal bones from punching or striking boards, bricks and tiles
- bruising from kicks or strikes to body, ranging from mild bruising to major deep bruising, such as a cored thigh
Basic First Aid for common Martial Arts injuries
In the case of most soft tissue injuries and joint sprains, we adopt a couple of well known acronyms as a matter of principal.
The RICER approach is used in order to help minimize swelling to the injury. This is important, as blood tends to rush to an injured site, which can cause deep bruising (haematoma). Generally, the greater the swelling, the longer the recovery time from the injury and the more difficult it becomes to initially detect the nature of the injury:
Rest the injured part, and remove the participant from the activity which caused the injury
Ice the injured area with and ice pack, generally for 20 minutes every 2 hours for the first 24 hours and then 20 minutes every 4 hours for the next 24 hours
Compress the area with bandages to hold the icepack in place and prevent swelling.
Elevate the injured part above the level of the heart to help reduce the blood flow to the injury, again reducing swelling.
Refer for further appropriate professional treatment, if necessary for continued management
We also abide by the NO HARM principal in the treatment of soft tissue injuries and to further help minimize swelling, namely:
No Heat applied to the injured area for 48-72 hours, such as hot packs, deep heat creams, hot water (eg jacuzzi).
No Alcohol, which dilates the blood vessels causing greater blood flow to the injury, and also if consumed in excess, can lead to further injury of the area.
No Running or exercise, to avoid blood flow to the working muscles increasing swelling and risking further injury
No Massage for the first 48-72 hours, as massage also promotes circulation and swelling if performed initially after the injury, and direct pressure may cause greater injury, if there is deeper damage.
Other potential injuries:
Head injury / Concussion
Concussion can occur where a student is kicked or punched to the head in sparring, or even when they fall and hit their head on the floor or wall during training.
You should seek medical attention immediately if you notice the student become drowsy, irritable, disoriented, vomit, become amnesic (i.e. can’t remember clearly before the injury), experience numbness or loss of power in the limbs.
Continuing to participate with concussion, or head injury can be life threatening particularly in the case where there is even the slightest cranial bleeding. It can also affect judgment, balance and reaction time leading to further potential injury in open activities such as sparring.
Please note that the person does not need to be knocked unconscious to have concussion, if you suspect possible concussion, always refer to medical treatment and observation immediately.
Whether you’re in class, at camp, a demo or anywhere you perform Taekwon-Do you should have on hand a first aid kit, ice packs, bandages and someone who is capable of applying them.
Within your first aid kit, include slings, bandages, swabs, rubber gloves, saline solution, an asthma spacer, tweezers (for splinters)…etc.
Keep a blanket handy for any student who may go into shock as a result of injury.
As stated previously, It is recommended all instructors enrol in a First Aid course, to learn the correct ways to deal with such instances.
For the full article ‘Injury in Martial Arts‘ click here
written by Master Michael Muleta, 8th Degree
- President – United ITF Taekwon-Do Australia
- CEO – Global Fitness Institute
- Level 3 First Aid Instructor