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April 2019

You do not have to be a professional martial artist to be concerned with injuries interfering with kicking and punching skills. As with many other athletes, incurring sport injuries is detrimental to improving martial arts techniques and overall forms and fighting skills. Many professional martial artists will tell you that their injuries are sport specific – related to the repetitive movements specific to the sport of martial arts. Learning to identify the symptoms of many common injuries can help prevent minor injuries from escalating to a severe or chronic state.

I will share with you a breakdown of some of these common injuries. I’m first going to cover upper extremity injuries and then travel down through the body. I will then give you an outline of the treatment guidelines and prevention techniques that incorporate strengthening exercises for these weak or injured areas.

The amount of striking and punching present in the martial arts varies depending upon the specific style (s) that is practiced. The hands, elbow and shoulder are the obvious area of concern. So whether you are boxing the mitts with 12 ounce gloves, practicing your board breaking in karate or TKD, drilling armlocks in brazilian jiu jitsu or moving through a hip toss in a judo class, you should become aware of preventive methods to avoid hand, elbow and shoulder injuries.


This injury, usually caused by the smashing of the dorsal side (back) of the hand is located at the fifth metacarpal (base of the 5th finger).


Swelling and pain will occur on the backside of the hand with an angular or rotational deformity. Deformity can also occur within the finger, appearing to be twisted at the joint. Bruising to fingers and dorsal (backside) of the hand may also occur. However, discoloration of the hand is not always indicative to the severity of the injury.


It is important the remember the acronym RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. If, after applying the RICE method and pain still exists, seek the medical attention of a physician.

If a physician determines there is a fracture, the hand will be splinted for approximately 4 weeks after which range of motion exercises will be prescribed to facilitate healing.


• Hand gripping with a squeeze ball or hand grip.

• Various wrist rolls with small weights (rolling wrist towards the forearm).

• Isolated movement of each finger (up and down 20-40 reps each).

• Strengthening of the wrist joint by placing both hands flat against each other and slowly pushing.

• Spreading and closing the fingers.


This type of injury can easily occur from punching, locking techniques or take-downs. The rotator cuff muscles, located under the deltoids is involved in the rotation of the arm, abduction (movement away from body) and provides stability to the shoulder joint. When the shoulder joint is twisted and pulled or if there is overuse from throwing the arm injury to the rotator cuff is common.


Tenderness will be felt in the front of the shoulder, below the edge of the collarbone or along the shoulder blades (scapula). Also, pain will be felt while rotating and lifting the arm simultaneously. Since there are four muscles that comprise the rotator cuff muscles, it is difficult to identify injury.


Follow rice (rest, ice, compression and elevation) for the immediate care. Since it is easy to confuse an injury to the deltoid with one to the rotator cuff seek the care of a physician.


• Stretch the shoulder joint by placing arm across the chest, while other arm holds it tightly against your chest.

• Try stretching the chest and the shoulder thoroughly.

• Internal rotation with resistance bands. Proceed with t his exercise on each arm. 3 sets and 12-20 reps. 2-3 times per week

• External rotation with a resistance band. Proceed with this exercise on each arm. 3 sets and 12-20 reps. 2-3 times per week.