Martial arts have been a popular form of sport for decades. Whether it's something like karate, which has been the most famous form of martial art for years, or the increasing popularity of capoeira, the Brazilian martial art that combines fighting and dancing, there are a huge number of martial arts to choose from.
But as with any sport, especially ones that revolve around fighting, there are injuries commonly associated with martial arts. The specific areas of risk will vary slightly depending on the martial art being practiced, but largely there are certain injuries that are particularly common when taking part in martial arts.
Most Common Injuries
As with most sports, the most common injuries in martial arts are the more minor ones, such as bruises, cuts, and minor sprains. Usually these would not be reported, but a number of different studies over the years have found that these injuries occurred most commonly around the head, face, and neck. The limbs, and the legs in particular, were the second most likely place to be injured.
Depending on the form of martial art being learnt, and where it is being learnt, protective gear may or may not be used. However, a 2013 study conducted by Polish researchers found that more injuries were observed in competitions where protective gear was used, even if the gear was covering a different body part. This is possibly because people feel less of a need to hold back since their opponent is protected, a phenomenon that has been reported in many other studies before.
Most Serious Injuries
When taking part in an activity such as martial arts, it is important to realise how real the risk of serious injury is. The problem with injuries in martial arts compared to other sports is that there is a wide variety in terms of type, severity, and location of the injury.
Fractures are the most common form of serious injury in martial arts, with broken bones being another leading consequence. What makes these more serious than breaks or fractures caused by other sports is not only the fact that they can happen anywhere on the body, but also because they can often come as the result of a miscalculated attack, rather than pure bad luck. This often results in the injury being more serious. For example, broken ribs are a more common injury in martial arts than most other sports, and can lead to a number of complications with the internal organs.
Furthermore, there are so many complex moves and twists in many forms of martial arts that a mistake can cause someone to damage themselves in a very unnatural way. This can lead to problems ranging from a dislocated knee to a herniated disc.
Then there are injuries that can be sustained by the ligaments and the muscles. People learning a martial art will not only be using more of their muscles and ligaments more often, they will also be using them in a very different way than they normally would. This can result in all sorts of swelling or tears, which can take months to heal, depending on what is torn and how badly.
It is important to remember that not all of karate's worst injuries are sustained in combat. There are also a number of issues that can arise over time. Swelling of the ligaments is one example. Damage to the baby finger is quite common among people practicing karate, and often requires surgery. Joint problems such as arthritis will also become clear over time in many people, which then increases the likelihood of sustaining injuries in the future.
Taking up a martial art is a great way to stay active and get a full exercise, but it should be an informed decision. If you have any pre-existing conditions at all, it is quite possible that it needs consideration, so make sure you know that if you're signing up, you should be prepared to deal with pain.