“Mens sana in corpore sano” as the ancient Greeks used to say which is translated into “a healthy mind in a healthy body.”
The significance of physical exercise is indisputable since it benefits both the brain functionality and your physical performance, leading to the amelioration of your general mood and stamina.
Although, there always lies the danger of injury, especially in the fields of martial arts where the use of physical force is more direct.
In Wrestling, injuries occur mainly in the back area and the knees. In Kung Fu, injuries occur mainly in the wrists, shoulders and knees, while in Judo, they occur usually in the ribs and the shoulders.
Can we distinguish the types of injuries in Taekwondo based on certain criteria?
The answer is yes. We can divide those in two basic categories:
a) Traumatic injuries
Traumatic injuries result from impact related events and are, most commonly, the direct outcome of contact.
A broken nose, a broken bone, a kick to the head and so on, suggest some of the acute injuries that can take place in Taekwondo. Acute injuries are more likely to happen during practice or performance.
Cumulative injuries (chronic)
Cumulative injuries are usually a result of incomplete training regimens. They can occur at any given time, and they can have a chronic character. This type of injuries can occur during sparring, practicing or in competition.
Examples of this type of injuries are hamstring or groin tears and strains caused by high kicking, sprained knees and more serious ligament damage caused by forceful rotation of spinning kicks and tendonitis caused by the repetition of certain movements.
We should not forget that the executor of the technique is also at the risk of getting injured as the receptor of the kick. The body parts that are the most susceptible to injuries are the feet, the ankles the knees and the adductor muscle flexors, during the execution of one of the Taekwondo’s kicks.
This is the reason why proper technique is vital in order not only to remain in balance, but to avoid such injuries. There are several ways that one can prevent injuries, listed later through this article.
What type of injuries can occur in Taekwondo?
- Concussions are almost always a serious concern whenever it comes to a full-contact sport. They can occur by kicks and punches directed to the head. Concussions can even be caused when the practitioner experiences a fall and consequently, hits their head on the floor. If the practitioner has reactions like irritability, drowsiness, vomiting, numbness, loss of power in the limbs or becoming amnesic after the hit, immediate medical attention should be reached.
- Skin lacerations and contusions. General bruising that can be caused by several kinds of hits, kicks and strikes to the body. The range of the impact begins from mild bruising and can reach a major deep bruising. Example of a major bruising is a corked thigh.
- Tendonitis that is caused by over-extending a front kick, or excessive jumping. A common cause of tendonitis is the repeated intense practice of patterns where the techniques are snapped forcefully in the air (without a target). The strain consequently is placed on the tendons and joints. Microtears usually do not result in immediate performance problems except from the pain experienced but they suggest a strong indicator that you are applying more force to your body than it can take. For these reasons, there lies also the danger of a full tear, meaning the complete destruction of the tendon. Tendonitis can occur in elbows, shoulders, hips and knees.
- Dislocation of the patella (or knee cap). This type of injury is more often observed among younger practitioners, due to the weak nature of their immature ligaments. It is often noticeable from the distinct sound of “snap” which is followed by pain and an inability to stand.
- Cartilage problems. Cartilage is a connective tissue found in many parts of the body. It executes several functions including holding bones together and supporting other tissues. It is a tough and flexible material but relatively easy to damage. Cartilage damage comes commonly with the form of joint pain, stiffness and inflammation. Cartilage problems can be caused by a direct blow. If a joint receives a heavy impact, the cartilage may be damaged.
- Muscle soreness caused by certain movements that can possibly put excessive stress in particular muscles. Muscles cramps that are caused by over-stretched muscles or by abnormal muscle contraction. Another cause could be an imbalance of electrolytes that can happen during excessive sweating. Symptoms are characterized by pain, loss of power, stiffening and spasms in the muscles.
- Broken noses, coming from a forceful kick or punch to the face area. Nosebleeds are also quite often. They can be caused by a blow to the nose or even from training in hot conditions.
- Broken limbs coming from hits or kicks.
- Fractured bones. A common type of fractured bones is the one that occurs in carpal bones. It can be caused from punching or striking boards, bricks and tiles.
- Sprained and ligament damage, caused by rotational kicking.
- Internal organ damage, like damaged kidneys resulting from strikes.
- Back and neck pains: when technique is poor, the force exerted is instead absorbed by the knees or back muscles as they twist with the thrust of the body. In addition, spinning kicks rely on centrifugal force to add power to a kick, and rely on the lower back in order to act as a pivot point as the body spins and whips the leg around in a circular motion. Jumping kicks add additional stress to the spine, as the force of the participant’s entire body weight hitting the floor tests the spine’s ability to remain aligned.
- Choking: This is not a common occurrence, although the risk of a practitioner choking on a mouthguard, dentures on their tongue can actually happen. There is the risk of swallowing their tongue and choking. In this case, it is necessary to dislodge the object in order to allow the restoration of normal breathing. The slap on the back whilst in an upright position, as a solution, should be avoided since it can cause the sufferer to lodge deeper.
As you can see, the range of severity in the injuries that can occur in Taekwondo begins from mild ones and can reach dangerous points where the damage is of high risk or even, inevitable.
This is the reason why, taking precautions can save you from unwanted and possibly dangerous injuries. Better to be safe than sorry, as they say! (Samuel Lover, 1837).
How can I prevent a possible injury?
Here is an easy to follow list of suggested precautions:
- Physical examination. An examination of your organs and vitals can ensure your physical wellness in order to participate in such a martial art. Also, in case you are in an increased risk of injury or complications of other medical conditions or prior injuries, you will be given advice for your safety or medical prescription.
- Wear proper equipment. The most vital part of equipment is a headgear and mouthguards given the fact that Taekwondo’s focus lies in striking the head which can lead even to concussions. Protective headgear can help reduce this risk as well as other types of head injury. Mouthguards on the other hand, can reduce the chance of dental trauma. Full body padding is also important. It can be worn on the arms, chest, abdominal and legs and it helps soften the blow on your feet and ankles which are the most susceptible areas to injury. Pelvic and groin protectors also, can reduce the risk of a kick.
- Hydration. Being properly hydrated during sessions can reduce the stress that occurs from heat during exercise and can maintain normal muscular function.
- Follow the rules of the art.
- Use your peripheral vision in order to lessen the possibility of getting hit.
- Appropriate warm-up and cool-down. You need to ensure that heart rate and muscle temperature are raised in the first 5-10 minutes of class and then gradually incorporate dynamic (not ballistic) movements, gradually increasing the range to what is going to be worked through the session. Cool down should consist of lower intensity exercise, such as static stretching, to help reduce muscle soreness.
- Streching. Sufficient stretching and preparatory drills can help you develop flexibility and consequently, minimize the risk factor of possible injuries. Be careful not to hold an intense stretch longer than 15 seconds to avoid harming your muscles. If you are not sure about the correct flow of your stretches, consult your trainer.