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The risks and dangers of martial arts practice

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The risks and dangers of martial arts practice
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No matter how safe school owners tell you his school is, no matter how low the incidence of injury, martial arts practice will always come with its dangers. Data showing martial arts practice is statistically as safe as or safer than other contact sports usually refer to mortality and serious injury rates.  Very seldom do we hear about the full spectrum of the risks that practitioners expose themselves while practicing martial arts.


Keep in mind that the dangers listed in this article are risks exposed to martial arts practitioners that may or may not be encountered. Practicing martial arts will not automatically victimize the practitioner, additionally, the listed risks are not exclusive to martial arts and may be encountered in other sports or activity.


Also note that the scope of this article is to point out existing dangers. For more details, please consult the reference list or a health professional (when applicable).


1- Physical traumas (injuries)

Although statistics tend to prove that martial arts practice is as safe (or even safer) then the practice of other contact sports, we need to be reminded that the ethos of martial arts is primarily combat. Even with all the goodwill in the world, accidents will happen and sooner or later, practitioners are bound to get injured.

Injury overview:

Mild: The most common category, this includes contusion (bruises), laceration (cuts and scratches) and sprain to all joints. Mild injuries usually do not necessitate any special treatment.

Getting kicked may result in similar bruise
Photograph is taken from wikipedia

Moderate: This includes fractures, dislocation, tendon rupture and neuropraxias (disruption to nerves). Fractures occurs on the striking tools (the hands, foot, ankles etc.) as well as on struck areas (pelvic bone, forearm bones, etc.)  Dislocation happen most often on shoulders, fingers and toes

Severe: This category includes all potentially life threatening injuries. This includes rib fractures, bleeding or air escape into the chest.

Similarly, all internal organs in the abdominal cavity are susceptible of trauma. Injuries to the head, ranging from bruises and mild concussions to intracranial bleeds, leading to loss of speech and/or loss of visions have been reported in the literature of the past ten years.

Mechanics of a concussion
Image from Patrick J. Lynch for wikipedia

Impacts to the head may also affect the cervical spine, leading, in the worse case, to quadriplegia.


2- Long term joint injuries

These types of injuries are seldom mentioned in part because they take a long time to manifest themselves and because the link to martial arts practice is not always clear. Nevertheless, there are evidences that misused or overused joints may cause the following illness.

Arthrosis is caused by the degeneration, thinning and total destruction of cartilage between the joints, resulting bones to rub one on another. The action of rubbing wears out the bones in an extremely slow and painful way. Arthrosis may be caused by ethnicity, hormones and bone density, nutritional factors, genetics, overweight issues, work and sports.

Casual training does not usually cause arthrosis, but for the professionals who spend their lives training, the repetitiveness of certain movements, the repeated micro trauma caused by striking targets and joint injuries may contribute to the development of arthrosis.


3- Body deformation

Bruise and broken bones don’t usually leave any permanent mark once the body took its time to heal itself, but there some injuries the body cannot restore completely. Here are two examples.

Cauliflower ears

Cauliflower ear happens when the ear is struck and a blood clot develops under the skin or when the connection between the skin and the cartilage is disrupted.

The result is a swollen ear that resembles a cauliflower.

photograph is courtesy of Sogospelman 
for wikipedia

Although some fighter and wrestlers consider cauliflower ear as a badge of courage, most people are simply repulsed at the sight of the deformed ear.


Trauma from repeated striking

Many martial art systems include joints and bones toughening, whose goal is to prepare the body to the violent impact of hitting a real target. Conditioning, when done properly and progressively causes very little damage, apart from the wanted deadened nerves, thickened skin and calluses on striking areas of the arms and legs.

When improperly done, body conditioning may cause irreversible injuries and deformations. This happens when an over-eager practitioner strikes a hard target too hard for his level of conditioning or from over training. There are historical accounts of practitioners who trained their hands so much, that their hands were as hard as rock, but as a result, not longer had the agility to hold a pen.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 March 2011 21:36  

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