Wrestling is known for the high level of contact involved between participants, which can cause injury. However, wrestling competitively is grounded in learning the proper techniques and skills needed to take on an opponent. Learning the proper way to execute wrestling moves is one of the best ways to avoid injury, but acute injuries (those that occur suddenly) do happen.
Wrestlers are prone to acute injuries that affect the knee, shoulder, skin, head and face. The most common wrestling injuries are muscle strains, ligament injuries like sprains, or tears, and bruises. Conditions that occur as a result of overuse, or repetitive strikes or force can also occur, like instability and bursitis.
- A common wrestling condition, cauliflower ear is caused by severe bruising to the structures of the ear from friction with the mat or another body part.
- Concussions can occur from hard contact with the mat, floor, or other wrestler
- Severe tongue and tooth injuries also occur through direct contact with the mat, floor, or opponent.
- Repetitively striking the mat can cause sharp pain and swelling at the knee.
- The twisting of the knee during wrestling can also result in ligament injuries
There are intrinsic and extrinsic risk factors for injury. Intrinsic factors are a child’s individual musculoskeletal issues, which can include skeletal immaturity (bones and joints that are still developing) or muscle weakness. Extrinsic factors are the environment in which an athlete performs, which can include the level of competition: how much, how hard and how long play lasts.
Other common risk factors for wrestling injuries include:
- Shoulder and knee injuries tend to cause the most severe damage and are responsible for the most time lost from play, surgeries, and rehabilitation.
- Impact with the mat, floor, or other players can result in injury.
- Skin infections, including MRSA, have become increasingly common in schools. The three most common skin infections in wrestling are: herpes simplex, ringworm, and impetigo.
- Wrestlers with an infection may be allowed to drill and participate in workouts, but need to avoid contact with teammates because infections can rapidly spread through a team.
- Dehydration from training sessions tends to occur in hot and humid rooms.
- Eating disorders can occur related to attempting to “make weight” to wrestle in a certain class
Prevention and Performance
Playing by the rules, and using proper protective equipment is critical to preventing wrestling injuries. In addition to contact-related injuries, players also need to guard against injuries that can occur as a result of poor conditioning, or being unprepared for the level of activity.
Other ways to avoid injury include:
- The risk of wrestling injury goes down when wrestlers are properly matched in age, experience, weight, and gender.
- Wearing protective headgear decreases the risk of cauliflower ear and concussion.
- Mouth guards can prevent severe tongue and tooth injuries.
- Pre-patella bursitis can be prevented or minimized through the use of kneepads.
- Strengthening and flexibility exercises for the muscles of the lower extremity, in particular the quadriceps and hamstrings muscle groups
- To minimize risk of skin infection the athlete should:
- Take routine and thorough showers before and after practice and matches.
- Wear clean clothing at each practice session and match.
- Sanitize mats with antiseptic solution after each practice.
- Properly control weight and diet so the athlete is able to maintain body weight within two to four pounds of the wrestler’s weight class.
- Balanced diet should be based upon the athlete’s age, body size, growth phase, and physical activity so to minimize the risk of injury or illness.
- Weight certifications have been adopted by many wrestling organizations that require the wrestler to weigh in during the first two weeks of a season. The minimum weight a wrestler can then go down is seven percent of this initial weigh in weight.
- Did you know that wrestling in one of the oldest known sports?
- Did you know that wrestling offers levels of competition that includes the Olympics, the American Athletic Union (AAU), the US Wrestling Federation, in addition to high school and college tournaments?
- Shoulder instability
- Shoulder strain or sprain
- Prepatellar bursitis
- Knee sprain
- Medial collateral ligament (MCL) knee sprain
- Lateral collateral ligament (LCL) knee sprain