Rehabbing Rib Injuries in BJJ… How I did it

“First off this is my personal experience and the things I did along the way to reduce my healing time… I am not a medical professional just a guy who tried some stuff and it seemed to work in my case”

Ok so having suffered and rehabbed probably the worst injury I have had yet while training, I thought I would share some tips on how I got back to full training so quick!  A Lot of people I have trained with were surprised how quickly I returned from this injury. While doing research there wasn’t a lot of info specific to BJJ.

Now as most of us know injuries can be quite common in Jiu-Jitsu when training hard, that being said it is far less than some other contact sports. I with give a brief rundown on the injury events. Whilst training with a larger

stronger partner, I was in the bottom mounted position. While passively resisting I was subjected to a twisting crunch motion, as if I was doing elbow to knee crunches. Now this pressure combined with my core engaged trying to resist caused  one of my ribs to pop upward. Being in some pretty high pain I managed to take a deep breath to expand my rib cage and with downward pressure from my hand I popped it back into place. Initially I felt as though I had broken my rib.

The following day I attended a sports physio, where we did a number of tests from physical manipulation to movement range tests. The initial prognosis was that I had torn my oblique muscle and would be off training for a week or more… I could handle that! We flew out to the USA 5 days later so I took it easy and wasn’t in much pain apart from the occasional sharp jap when I twisted fast. I decided that I felt good enough to train so when over some movement drills at home before heading to the class and everything seemed ok. So I headed to class and was completing the warm up. Everything was fine until about halfway through I squated down to do gorilla hops where you place your hands in front of you and swing your legs forward to move down the mat sort of like a gorilla… On the first one “SNAP” accompanied by worst pain I had felt in a long time!

My rib had popped again and this time was accompanied by grinding and clicking every time I moved. I was 100% sure now something structural was broken, in the area I could feel a slight displacement of my cartilage “DAMN IT”. I believe it to be a Costal cartilage rib fracture between the 7 & 8 ribs.  I got home feeling pretty bummed and did a heap of research, the general consensus was it can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 5 months to heal and get back on the mats as the blood supply is low in the cartilage. I researched ways to accelerate bone/cartilage healing and didn’t find too much. Just a lot about you have to rest and not do any strenuous movement or activities…. Pffft yeah right I just traveled to the other side of the world to train!! I came across a few video’s and forums and found this type of injury is a common for BJJ practitioners.

One of the good videos I found

***Disclaimer*** Always seek professional medical advice with any injuries***

** I did not take any pain or anti inflammatory medication throughout this process **

As there isn’t much a doctor can do for ribs and this type of injury can almost never be seen on an Xray so we didn’t go and get it checked. So here is what “I” did, as my fracture wasn’t stable and continued to move and grind for around 4 days I tried to stay still and rest as much as I could. I still got out and walked around but avoided all twisting and bending. This meant Dee and the kids put my shoes on and tied my laces, helped me in and out of bed and picked things up for me. I was also icing the area when ever I got a chance. We gave ourselves a week for it to stabilize if not we were heading home! Thankfully on day 4 the grinding and popping had stopped.

On day 5, I changed the process and started using a heat pack 3 to 4 times a day on the area to increase the blood flow. As while researching had come across a really old trial from 1934 done on dogs “back when animal testing was the norm”. In this trial they heated fractures during healing and found a reduction in healing time and increase in healed bone strength. I had also been using a CBD topical cream and arnica cream on the area 3 to 4 times a day. Internally I was taking vitamins D3, magnesium and joint formula high in glucosamine and chondroitin. I also added even more vegetables to my diet such a broccoli, carrots and spinach all high in calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. A healthy diet is probably the most important thing for healing injuries.

I maintained this routine and process for the whole time, religiously heating the area with intermittent icing before applying heat if I had been doing a lot of moving and the area was sore or aching. As soon as It was comfortable enough I also took up sleeping on the area, as apparently this also increases the blood supply to the area.

At the 2 week mark, I was comfortable enough to start doing pushups and bodyweight squats ( there was no way I could do a sit up yet).  I increased the amount I was doing between week 2 and 3 until I was doing 100 of each every morning. This was a good way to strengthen my core and keep fit without aggravating it further. Exactly 3 weeks and 2 days after I injured it last I attended a open mat. Prior to this I had been attending and watching every class that Dee and the kids attended. I sometimes joked that the pain of watching was worse than the injury itself. What it did do though was made me stay focused on rehabbing it as I wanted nothing more that to get back out there!

First day back 3 weeks later

The Open mat was where I planned to do a number of movement drills to very cautiously test my injury. Everything was feeling great and I was able to do almost all movements without any restriction. I then proceeded to flow roll with Dee, going very light it was a good test to see how my rib went with outside forces. It was going so well I flow rolled with Tim one of the black belts and it felt good.

It was very important to not go jumping straight back into live training, for the next week I participated in all classes but sat out during live rolling. I would only “flow” roll with people I trusted and who were well aware of my injury. I would ensure I iced the area after every session prior to applying heat. During week 5 I started live rolling with everyone but informing my partner of my injury, all the people were great and the only discomfort I felt was when I moved in a twisting motion with my core engaged, such as escaping back control. This week is also where I decided to pull out of the World Masters as I still was only training light and wasn’t doing any takedown work yet.

Week 6 was much of the same just slowly increasing my intensity and attempting movements that I usually performed prior to my injury. The whole time though my focus was on protecting my rib and ensuring I or my partner didn’t do anything to reinjure it. I had days where it was a little sore but for the most part it was feeling fine. At this stage we were training 2 to 3 times a day so it was holding up really well. I continued this through week 7 and 8 but stopped informing my partner of the injury.  I believe this is when I classed it as healed, after completing 4 classes in one day with a lot of competition rolls, I was very happy!!

I will continue to look after the area as there is no way of telling if the rib can take the same amount of pressure it did before the injury. I am left with a slight lump where the cartilage has healed but it doesn’t cause any discomfort. Hopefully none of you have to endure this type of injury but if you do, hopefully something here may help you get back to training.

-Woody

 

 

4 Replies to “Rehabbing Rib Injuries in BJJ… How I did it”

  1. Thank you for sharing about what you did, what worked for you. I am a super newbie white belt and am rehabbing a similar injury now. I will make my own custom plan, and hopefully will be telling a similar story of my return to health and to the mats in a few months from now.

    1. Glad it helped, it was pretty hard finding info on BJJ rib injuries when I was searching. The more info out there the better!

  2. Just injured my rib yesterday due to freaky movements when I was attemping a mount escape. Thank you for your insight on your recovery. I will definitely pick up on some of your advice as far supplementation goes and ice and heat therapy, and I also do take cbd tinctures as well. Anyway, how has your recovery been so far? Now that a little time has passed, has there been any reoccurring or residual pain? This is my first rib injury, so I’m pretty bummed out that I have to stop for a while, even after just coming back about 2 months ago from a year hiatus. Best wishes and to good health! Thanks!

  3. Thank you! I’m a rooster blue that always rolls with heavy weights. I got caught similar to your injury. I was inverted and took a lot of weight while trying to hip out. I took a weekend off before getting a 2nd pop from a similar position Now I’m back after 4 days off, but I can’t knee shield until this friggen rib is healed. Thanks for the advice and steps you took to get back to competition health. 2 months away to Master Worlds!

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