Grappling, scrambling and rolling. Whatever can we do to strengthen knees? If you have had any first hand experience with Jiu Jitsu you will soon find out that knees are the most vulnerable body part to become injured in the sport. No other body part is more sensitive to minimal, awkward movements other than the ligaments and tendons in the knee. From over-stretching of the ligaments to partial tears of the menisci, and everything in between. The Anterior, Posterior and Medial ligaments all work together to maintain stability and control in the knee.
Being in someone’s guard can especially be brutal on the knees because not only do you carry the weight of your own body , but the weight of the person who has you in their guard. That doubling of the force exerted on your knees can be overwhelming and sometimes the smallest most insufficient amount of weight shift can cause a knee to pop, crack, or worse yet, tear a ligament. If you have ever had this happen you will know almost instantaneously. A sharp pain or locking of the knee with pain that overwhelms is a good indicator of a damaged knee.
In most cases the damage knee can be nursed with the R.I.C.E ( Rest Ice Compress Elevate ) method. Rest can go a long way in repairing a damaged ligament or even a partial tear. By not using the leg to walk or stand on, in most cases it can repair itself by rest alone . Ice on the body part in question can also help to reduce swelling that may occur in the damaged ligament. Compression of the knee using a quality knee brace can also help to reduce swelling and help maintain stability in the knee. If you have ever experienced a shifted ligament that has dislocated or moved out of place you will know the excruciating pain involved with trying to unshift or move the ligament back into place. Elevating the knee above the heart can aid in the reduction of swelling and serve to bring blood from the inured part back to the heart ( this is know as venous return ) .
The R.I.C.E method works best as soon as the knee becomes injured or quickly thereafter. Leaving the knee in question for too long may delay the healing process and overall health of the knee in returning back to as normal state as possible. In some cases if the injured knee and or ligaments cannot be repaired after seeking a doctors advice, intervening sugery may be needed. An MRI can best be used to determine the site of injury to the knee. Only a trained professional in orthopedics can determine the next course of action after a knee is damaged.
There are several ways to reduce the chances of having a knee become impaired or damaged when training.
1) Do not train– While this is the most obvious answer it IS in fact the best way to prevent an injury in the sport. If you have read this far you know that it is impossible to NOT train or participate in a sport you love no matter what the risks involved.
2) Knee supports/knee braces– Using a high quality knee brace can help maintain stability and help strengthen the knees while training. It is best to use a knee brace that has the support alongside the knee meshed inside of the support itself. This helps take some of the shock away from the knee.
3) Strength training– Overall leg strength can help to lessen the chance of the knee being injured because it helps to maintain stability. Since the knee is the weakest part of the leg it is best to keep the calves, quads, and thighs strong and in shape.
4) Supplements– Supplements such as Glucosamine & Chondroitin ,when taken regulary, help to build cartilage and soft tissue in joints such as the knee or elbow. While this should only be used to aid in strengthening the joints it should not be used as the main joint strength method.
Be aware of your body and rest when needed. There is no sense in pushing your body to the limit when it can be avoided if your knees, or elbows are screaming bloody murder. When in doubt or if you feel something not right when sparring, alert your partner and coach to reduce the chances of being more injured.
Maintain your overall health and live to train another day.