8 Tips To Train BJJ With a Finger Injury

It is not uncommon for BJJ athletes to experience finger injuries throughout their training. However, finger injuries do not need to stand in the way of BJJ training. With proper self-care and adjustments, you can train through finger injuries and avoid doing lasting damage to your fingers.

You can train BJJ with finger injuries by supporting them with athletic tape to immobilize any injuries. You can also avoid additional damage and strengthen your fingers with exercises to prevent finger strain frequencies. During recovery tailor your BJJ training to avoid additional strains.

While a finger injury can be painful and resting it might lead to marginally faster recovery, training jiu-jitsu safely with a finger injury is very possible. Let’s take a look at some tips that have helped me navigate the sea of minor finger injuries that I’ve received throughout my training.

Tape Your Fingers

Some BJJ techniques will put a lot of pressure on your fingers, especially when done for an extended period, so you want to protect your fingers to prevent finger injury. Taping your fingers with athletic tape gives support to injured fingers throughout the recovery process.

I prefer this athletic tape (available on Amazon.com) and have used it for 4 years at the time of writing this article. I always keep a roll of it in my gym bag that comes with me to BJJ classes.

To tape your fingers, pull the tape and wrap it gently around your finger. You don’t want to cut off blood flow but you do want to have adequate support. There are a lot of methods that people swear by, but this isn’t something that you need to stress over doing perfectly. Essentially you want to immobilize whichever joint is damaged. As a rule of thumb, you can make an x on the side of the knuckle that you want to be stabilizing against. If your injury is lateral on your finger you take the tape and apply it to the sides of your finger. If the injury went backward you want to make an x to stabilize in that direction.

There are many ways to tape your finger, but here’s a video that demonstrates how to tape your finger an easy way:

Stretch Your Fingers After Heavy Use

I’m not a big fan of stretching, but doing some minor stretching exercises after working the muscles in your fingers has some value in making them a bit more durable. This is especially important if you play a very fabric grip-dependent style of jiu-jitsu. BJJ athletes must exercise their fingers to prevent injuries when used for an extended period. Very light stretching of your fingers after heavy use can help keep things in good working order.

Avoid Heavy Grip Dependent BJJ Positions

Finger injuries commonly happen in heavy grip fighting sequences. There are some positions that heavily grip dependent and the result is that they lead to more tweaks and injuries than other positions. A prime example of one of the most common offending positions is spider guard.

Avoid Doing Spider Guard Whenever Possible

Some guards in BJJ are especially grip-dependent. I love to play spider guard, where you hold your opponent on the wrists and sleeves and use one foot or both feet to control their posture through their arms. If you lose your grips the guard is useless. So many people, including myself, will hold on too hard and end up straining fingers when the grips get broken instead of simply letting the grip go. Whenever I have an issue with my fingers or thumbs I begrudgingly transition to less grip-dependent guards, in my case I tend towards butterfly guard and half guard.

If you insist on using Spider Guard, play it with pistol grips and try to transition into your techniques as soon as possible.

Avoid Using the De La Riva Guard Whenever You Can

The de la Riva Guard is another open guard that can be very grip-dependent in the gi. De la Riva Guard uses a lot of gripping on sleeves while the opponent attempts to break the grip. If you have a finger injury but insist on using this open guard style it might be less risky to grab wrists instead of using fabric grips since the overall grip is weaker and less prone to injury when the grip is broken.

Put Ice on the Injured Finger

Upon getting a finger injury, icing can help to control inflammation which can sometimes cause secondary damage to the area. This won’t have a huge impact on the overall magnitude of the injury but it helps and the effort to implement this is very low.

It isn’t a bad idea to also take some anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen to ease the swelling. However, take care to avoid using the affected area because you won’t have as great of awareness of the extent of the injury while taking them.

Let Grips Go

The simplest way to avoid straining your fingers is to practice letting grips go before they get broken. This really reduces the amount of strain you put on your hands overall and is essential to longevity for your fingers, especially in training.

When you’re competing perhaps it will be worth the potential damage but in training I always let grips go when I feel my training partners preparing for a grip break.

Letting go at the right time is an awareness that can develop over time and with more training. Accidents and injuries will happen however, if you have to let go, just let it go, I promise you’ll be able to get more training volume in the long term if you develop this skill.

Train Without a Gi

No-gi jiu-jitsu has far fewer opportunities to get married to a grip. The absence of sleeves and lapels really keeps you from stubbornly holding onto a grip through a grip-breaking sequence.

When training no-gi, you can focus on timing techniques and transitional movements that will definitely carry over into your gi game. I love training no-gi jiu-jitsu and feel like it has a great carry-over into the gi without risking aggravating a finger injury.

Rest Your Fingers

I know Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can be an extremely addictive hobby. But simply taking some time off can do wonders for your overall training experience. Simply taking the time off will give your body some time to recover from your finger injury, but will also likely bring your overall level of inflammation from all your other micro-injuries you haven’t noticed down as well.

A lot of people have trouble taking rest days, and the overall availability of class can often give athletes a tendency to overtrain and under rest. Taking some time off for real rest just might have you return to the mats both injury-free and refreshed and ready to go!

Get Professional Medical Help

If your finger is simply won’t get better and seems to be chronic or if the injury is bad enough to grossly affect your daily life, it might be time to get a professional involved. Sports physical therapists or medical specialists are invaluable in helping you get recovered from naggy injuries. In some cases, seeing professionals is really the only option to get you back to a hundred percent. You only get one body, so take care of it if you have the means to do so.

Final Thoughts

While it’s common to have sore fingers throughout your overall BJJ training, athletes need to be tuned in to their bodies and adjust their jiu-jitsu and recover routines to take care of their injuries. This includes taking care of the somewhat frequent minor finger injuries that can happen.

It’s really common sense, but it really boils down to supporting your injuries with tape and recovery, and if they’re minor adjust your jiu-jitsu a bit to avoid aggravating it while training. If you aren’t recovering get medical help or make other adjustments to prioritize getting better. Taking these actions has helped keep me on the mats more often with fewer injuries than many of my peers, so try to take some of these tips into consideration in your own training.

For more check out Can I Do BJJ While Recovering From a Rib Injury?

Andre

Hi, I'm Andre and I am the author of this website. I have always been fascinated with martial arts and train them as often as I can. I currently train primarily in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and train judo and wrestling as secondary martial arts. I help to coach a kid's grappling program that blends all three martial arts. I hope that you find the value that you are looking for in the articles on this website.

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