What are Martial Arts Injuries?
Martial arts all differ in practice and technique, regulations and intensity. As a result, participation in martial arts is known for causing a wide range of injuries that can vary from mild to severe.
The hands are especially vulnerable to injury during striking and chopping maneuvers. Athletes may sustain contusions and lacerations while competing due to the high contact nature of the sport.
Types of Martial Arts Injuries
The most common martial arts injuries are strains, sprains, cuts, bruises, and fractures. These injuries frequently occur in the wrist, hand, and elbow. Injuries may be acute in nature due to the arms contacting an external force or they may be chronic due to repeated injuries or overuse.
Some of the most common injuries from martial arts include:
- Bennett’s fracture: fracture of the base of the first metacarpal bone.
- Boxer’s fracture: a break in the neck of the metacarpal.
- Carpal instability: loss of normal alignment of the carpal bones.
- Distal radius fracture: a break of the distal part of the radius bone.
- Extensor carpi ulnaris tendinitis: inflammation of the extensor carpi ulnaris tendon.
- Perilunate dislocation: perilunate fracture dislocations.
- Sagittal band and extensor aponeurosis injuries: traumatic extensor tendon dislocation.
- Elbow fracture: damage to the olecranon, radius, or humerus.
- Metacarpophalangeal joint dislocation: dorsal metacarpophalangeal joint dislocation.
- Interphalangeal joint dislocation: dislocation of the PIP or DIP joint.
- Phalangeal fracture: finger fractures/dislocations.
- Wrist ligament injuries: Torn wrist ligaments including the scapholunate and TFCC.
Characteristics and Clinical Presentation of Martial Arts Injuries
Injuries may be sustained from practicing martial arts at any time during practice and competitions. Pain, bruising, and swelling are common in the affected area. Athletes may also sustain deep bruising, contusions and lacerations to the soft tissues surrounding the injury.
Athletes who experience pain following activity in martial arts should seek immediate medical attention. Additionally, if you have noticed a pattern of long-term pain, you should seek an experienced hand surgeon immediately.
Some of the most common symptoms of martial arts injuries may include:
- Decreased range of motion
Causes of Martial Arts Injuries
Due to the high contact nature of martial arts, many athletes will be injured over the course of their career. These injuries are most commonly sustained from acute physical trauma while utilizing blocking techniques, or from the structures of the arm absorbing large random physical forces.
Athletes may also injure themselves by falling with an outstretched hand.
Common causes of injury include:
- Acute trauma
- Improper body mechanics
- Straining joints, ligament, and tendons in extreme positions
Getting a Diagnosis for Martial Arts Injuries
Patients will undergo a physical examination to the affected region, to assess for points of pain and instability. While some injuries are easily distinguishable due to deformity or swelling, an X-ray is still needed to arrive at a diagnosis.
In some cases, an MRI will be ordered to determine injuries to ligamentous or soft tissues.
Treatment Options for Martial Arts Injuries
Many injuries of this nature can be treated with rest and anti-inflammatory medications. We recommend ceasing martial arts practice after receiving an injury to allow the affected region to rest and heal without repeated injury to the area.
After receiving clearance from a hand surgeon, patients may aid the affected area by applying P.R.I.C.E principles:
- Protect: the injured area should be protected with a splint or buddy-taping, best determined and applied by a hand surgeon.
- Rest: the injured region should be allowed to rest.
- Ice: use a cool pack or ice bag sparingly to reduce swelling and pain.
- Compression: wrapping correctly the area with a bandage may reduce the amount of swelling that can occur.
- Elevate: elevating the region also helps control swelling by using gravity to limit and reduce the amount of fluid that goes to the affected area.
In some cases, injuries sustained while performing martial arts may be treated with immobilization in a splint, sling or a cast. Resting the arm during this stage may promote healing.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories may be useful in reducing painful swelling and inflammation in cases where the soft tissues can be treated conservatively.
Some patients may benefit from a corticosteroid injection to relieve pain and swelling where acute trauma has injured the soft tissues but left the bones intact.
Severe injuries may require surgery to repair damaged bones, tendons, or ligaments. The treatment of the affected region depends on the severity and duration of the condition.
During surgery, your hand surgeon follows your preoperative plan, but also assesses the area for other problems contributing to malfunction. These might be addressed as well. If there isn’t enough sound tissue to reconstruct, a tendon graft may be required.
Preventing an Injury while Practicing Martial Arts
Maintaining proper body form while performing martial arts maneuvers, parries, and physical contact are essential in preventing injury. Proper use of throwing and disarming techniques may aid in reducing chronic and acute injuries.
Athletes ought to consult with a hand surgeon who will often direct you and a physical therapist following injury in order to decide exercises to employ and which maneuvers to modify or avoid temporarily.
Athletes can help to reduce the risk of injury with the following techniques:
- Physical examination before sports activities.
- Maintain fitness throughout career.
- Warm up before practicing.
- Hydrate before, during, and after practice.
Prognosis for Martial Arts
Healing of the affected region is usually more successful if performed in conjunction with physical therapy. Patients may require surgical intervention for displaced fractures and high-grade ligament tears. Simple fractures may be treated with brief support or immobilization. Surgical intervention requires careful adherence to guidelines directed by your surgeon.
HandSport Institute surgeons advise physical therapists themselves in order to restore proper hand and arm mechanics. Range of motion may be affected in chronic injuries that do not receive timely medical care and adequate rehab.
If You Believe You Have a Martial Arts Injury Contact HandSport Surgery Institute
Please contact us as soon as possible to schedule an appointment with our talented team. People experiencing Martial Arts Injuries should be evaluated to try and prevent further injury and mobility issues.
If you have been injured, it’s important to be evaluated by a highly skilled professional. Call Drs. Mark and Jason Pruzansky at 212-249-8700 to schedule an appointment and obtain an accurate diagnosis.