BJJ and brain damage

Dabashire - 
BubbaRayGracie - I'd be less worried about the potential effects of chokes and the occasional accidental knee to the head in BJJ than what could happen if you land on your head/neck wrong after a throw or during a sweep or have a strong guy give you hard neck crank before you know what's going on or something like that.

That said, I've never had a doctor, including neurologists, express concern to me about head injuries through BJJ, and those same folks have been pretty open to me about their concerns about head injuries with boxing and MMA. That doesn't mean you're not right to want to look into the potential of brain damage through BJJ/sub grappling though.

BJJ is no worse than any of the other grappling specialties. Judo would have a slight increase due to potential of landing on your head more often from a throw, but overall what Bubba said is pretty accepted.

As a person who has had a brain surgery and trains, I can say there is a neurological effect or 'stress', but no worse than taking a fall skiing as far as throws and take downs go...if anything, it improves your ability to take a fall and NOT get hurt.

Chokes increase CSF and blood pressure in your skull, but I doubt there is a means of measuring that definitively. Picture squeezing a balloon at one end. I seriously doubt there is any noticeable long-term damage as far as training goes...most people don't wait to black out to tap.

I do know that too much pressure on your brain will cause brain damage, but that would be pressure far greater than you'd experience in training.

Unless you get choked four or five times until you pass out every time you train, for a few years, your body is built to take the rest. I'd be a lot more worried about your joints

I totally agree with what you said about BJJ and other grappling arts like Judo or wrestling. I only used BJJ in my post because it was what was referenced in the thread title.

Out of curiousity, why did you have brain surgery, if you don't mind me asking?

  Interesting question.  I am a psychologist, not a physician.  The issue of "brain damage"  as you list in your thread title is probably more related to concussive injury than to BJJ chokes, generally speaking. Concussions, as you probably know, vary in severity, but there is some evidence for problems associated with multiple injuries (particularly when one occurs shortly after the other) as opposed to a single injury.  Concussions are more common in striking sports than in BJJ, but  they are more common in BJJ and wrestling than in many other sports.  Football is one of the riskiest contact sports for concussions.  Equestrian sports lead the list for per participant rates of concussion.  Here are the answers (in next posting) from a quick concussion quiz I put together last year.  I also have some more info on my blog/site:



What percentage of the 1.54 million head injuries reported annually in the United States are sport-related? 20% 


Which sport is estimated to have the highest rate of concussion/mild head trauma among its sports injuries?  Equestrian sports lead the list with a rate of concussion/mild head trauma accounting for between 3 and 91% of injuries. In Boxing, estimates ranges between 1 and 70%, while in Martial Arts the range is from 0 to 11%. 


Does diagnosis of concussive injury requires that the person lose consciousness or memory  for events preceding the blow? - No.

Neither is a necessary condition to diagnose concussion, and neither is a good isolated marker of its effects. Experts suggest that symptoms – and possibly cognitive and postural testing - be assessed and monitored at the time of the event and afterwards.



Evidence of a concussion is always detectable on either an MRI or CAT Scan?  No.  Very often, brain damage or negative effects of mild traumatic brain injuries (including concussions) will not appear on CAT or MRI imaging scans. 


Studies have shown that, on average, it takes approximately seven days for athletes to fully recover from symptoms of a concussion?  True.


Information from the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) indicates that the percentage of contests at world championship and Olympic tournaments stopped because of brain injury has _______ in recent decades


Declined, from about 10 percent to no more than 3 percent **


Based on data from Nevada's State Athletic Commission, the knockout rate in professional MMA is about __, the knockout rate in boxing is __. 


6%, 11% **  While MMA has a lower knockout rate, the overall injury rate between MMA and boxing is quite comparable and very similar to what is found with other contact (not just combat) sports.


There is good scientific evidence to suggest that use of protective mouthguards in contact sports reduces the risk of concussive injury. False.   


There is good evidence that protective mouthguards reduce the likelihood and severity of dental injuries, but such evidence does not yet exist for preventing concussions. 


According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s (NATA) position statement – “Management of Sport-Related Concussion” - athletes who experience a head injury resulting in loss of consciousness or amnesia should be disqualified from participating on the day of the injury.  True.


The brain must been given sufficient time to fully recover following a concussion. A second concussive injury occurring while the brain is still recovering from the first can markedly compound the severity and damage. In a large-scale study of NCAA football players, 75% of the cases in which a concussion re-occurred within the same season happened within 7 days of the first injury. Nearly all (92%) occurred within 10 days of the first injury. 



The NATA guideline – “Management of Sport-Related Concussion” – also recommends that athletic trainers should be more conservative in managing concussions with athletes who have a history of prior concussions?  True


A history of prior concussion may put the athlete at greater risk for negative outcomes. In a large-scale study of NCAA football players, those who had a history of 3 or more previous concussions were 3.5 times more susceptible to concussion than a player with no concussion history. They also had a much slower trajectory of recovery. Moreover, a study of retired NFL football players showed that – compared to retired players with no history of concussion, those reporting three or more concussion were 3.5 times more likely to have been depressed at some point.

Thanks for the info, Randy. I am neither a psychologist nor a physician. When I say "brain damage" I mean any type of trauma to the brain that affects it's functioning, could be a concussion or cumulative.

Out of curiousity, why did you have brain surgery, if you don't mind me asking?

I had a lovely little thing called an acoustic neuroma...its a type of tumor that grows on nervous my case it was growing off my occuloacoustic nerve (hearing and balance). In and of itself, its pretty harmless...causes balance issues and hearing loss and grow really slow...non-malignant. However, mine was large enough to put pressure on other nerves, which would have been a bad deal if it got too big.

How all that relates to the subject of pressure is blood chokes feel a LOT different now, as does taking a fall...I'm more aware of the differences...not sure how else to describe it.

Another point worth mentioning is I've met Flavio Behring...patriarch of the Behring lineage of BJJ. He's basically a Gracie student from way back in the day. Anyway, he was probably in his mid-60's and had been practicing BJJ for close to 50 years and was completely coherent and was a physical specimen...he was working over our black belts and everyone else he was rolling with.

So in comparison to boxers, I'd rank BJJ as 'a lot safer' as far as brain damage goes. Most of the long time practitioners I've ever met weren't 'slow' like some of the retired big named boxers out there, nor did they show any neurological signs of damage (ticks, restless limbs, etc.). I know that's not professional opinion, but incidence seems to be pretty low.

jhtaq11 - This might seem silly to UGers (I'm expecting to be labelled a pussy) and it did once to me, but hear me out. There are plenty of knocks to the head to be had in jiu jitsu, often head-to-head collisions or head-to-knee collisions. Secondly, the deprivation of blood to the brain associated with blood chokes can't do much good.

A lot of people seem to think that it's a granted that BJJ has no adverse effect on the brain whilst striking does and I wonder if this is true sometimes. If any UGers with training in neurology/neuroscience/whatever could give their input that would be great.

If that shit is happening in your school then you clearly need to go somewhere else