Understanding BJJ Knee Injuries

Understanding BJJ Knee Injuries

One of the most stressful injuries for an athlete to get is knee pain. Fingers, toes, and other scuffles we sort of get over easy but through pop culture we’re used to seeing knee injuries in a dramatic way.

So what are some of the basic ways you can injure your knees?

For starters – there’s the kneebar. Kneebar is a submission based on a simple principle. You isolate the limb, similar to how you would an armbar and then hyper extend the knee.

Damage from knee bars is deceptively quick at times. When you get caught or catch someone do not be afraid to tap or let go when you feel you would have damaged their knee.

Then there are heel hooks. Depending on how they’re placed they do a lot of damage to the entire structure of the knee.


Then of course there’s regular run of the mill movements which might sour your experience. Most obvious being the rubber guard, de la riva guard and knee slice.

When thinking about doing rubber guard – Eddie Bravo recommends you don’t do it unless you can do lotus position in yoga.

If you hurt your knee playing rubber guard, you’re doing it wrong. You should be putting your hip at a better angle rather than grabbing your shin and pulling it towards you until your knee pops.

De La Riva is not exactly the most knee friendly guard. If your knees are hurt from dlr your probably engaging your dlr hook too hard. You don’t need to have it super tight you just need a connection and make it sticky. Half-guard (Z guard or 93 guard) and deep half are probably fairly knee friendly.

There are also lots of risks with the half guard lockdown. Some stories were told about people blowing their ACLs trying to fight an aggressive lockdown. Since the lockdown applies pressure in one direction and sometimes to battle it you end up applying force in a different direction then the knee can get hurt.
The lockdown should be done with a backwards half guard which means they end up flat relative to you and hip to hip. If you do it off of regular half guard there’s significant rotational pressure on knee. This isn’t technically illegal, but it is painful as heck.

There is an explosive and dangerous counter to lockdown half guard. Posture up, then suddenly stand up. If they don’t release the lock down the moment you begin to standup they leg lock themselves.

And then there’s the Vaporizer—the technique that nearly finished Royler during their Metamoris match. Lying on his back, Eddie entwined leg in a calf-slicer that tweaked  knee, ankle, whole lower body, into the most painful pretzel.

During their match, Eddie secured the Vaporizer and Royler’s knee popped. Eddie paused and asked if he was okay. ‘Yeah, it always does that,’ Royler responded. So Eddie torqued harder, and the knee popped again, and again, and again, yet Royler endured. But really there’s no shame in tapping – vaporizer.