Shoulder injuries are among the most common injuries in both bjj as well as judo. Many reported injuries arise from chronic overload and sport specific adaptations which in turn result in strength, flexibility and postural adaptation in the shoulder region (Cools et al, 2015).
While shoulder injuries are among the most common they also happen in a variety of other non contact sports such as baseball, tennis, volley ball and swimming (Kirchoff & Imhoff, 2010).
One scientifically proven cause of injury is rapid increase in training load over a short time period. In addition to this fatigue, previous injury or lack of adequate preparation all have significant influence over the incidence of shoulder injury (Rosenblatt, 2016).
While there’s more evidence for Judo, injury insight when it comes to bjj is largely reliant on several recent researches. One such research indicates that guard passers are scientifically much more likely to sustain a shoulder injury than the guard players (Del Vecchio, Foster & Arruda, 2016).
Judo & BJJ contests usually involved high intensity intermittent activity requiring overload of several muscles and joints especially including those around the shoulder (Saraiva et al, 2014).
One suspected cause is the relationship between external rotators and internal rotators. Weak external rotators with strong internal rotators is often observed in judo and it has been suspected as a leading cause for some types of shoulder injuries (Ruivo, Pezarat-Correia & Carita, 2012).
Grip fighting is also another significant risk factor – given that it requires high levels of shoulder strength endurance it results in progressive fatigue of the shoulder rotators (both external and internal) and in turn increases the likelihood of potential muscle damage with every fight following the first one (Detanico et al, 2015).
In addition to this emerging evidence shows that a number of athletes lacks balanced strength in scapular muscles which is another significant factor that can contribute to shoulder pain (Anderson et al, 2012).
So in turn the evidence would suggest that’s very important to consider working on increasing strength and control in rotator cuff muscles as well as scapular control muscles. When it comes to shoulders it’s also best to train for endurance – aka high repetition and low load which makes sense when you consider that grip fighting is a continuous activity.
Another useful thing to consider is working on an even back:chest workout ratio. Tight pectoral muscles reduces the amount of posterior scapular tilt and external rotation, hence reducing the subacromial space, and hence increasing the risk of shoulder impingement (Phadke, Camargo & Ludewig, 2009).
Rolling Strong combines scientific exercises and routines specifically geared towards grappling.
Phil Daru is a performance coach for over 200 Elite Level Fighters in all aspects of combat sports.
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