Dealing with Common Injuries and Ailments
Several readers have requested that I write an article about dealing with injuries common in karate training. Rather than try to write an all-encompassing article about dojo safety and first-aid, I will review here some of my thoughts based on my own personal experience. I have certification in Basic First-Aid and also CPR/Defibrillation. I would hope that others would also share an interest in being prepared to deal with at least the most common injuries and conditions that may arise as a result of karate training. Students should inform their instructor(s), as well as classmates (as needed) about any injuries, illnesses or other conditions that may require special attention. Remember that proper warm-up and stretching, as well as strengthening exercises should be an integral part of the total experience of karate practice.
Cuts & Bruises
No matter how hard instructors try to keep their classes injury-free, some minor cuts and bruises should be expected. Any cuts should be immediately washed and bandaged. Large cuts should of course not be treated lightly. Instructors should have a first-aid kit on hand and bandages should be plentiful.
Sprains & Breaks
Sprains and strains should be treated seriously. Obviously, broken bones as well. Stop training and put some ice on any sprain or black eye ASAP. Seek medical attention as soon as possible if the injury appears serious.
R.I.C.E. is very important, and easy, to remember:
The closer to the time the injury occurred, the more important the treatment. Immediately reacting to an injury with the proper treatment can make a huge difference in recovery time. That professional athletes often get immediate professional medical attention following an injury is the primary reason that they can often get back into competition fairly quickly, sometimes the same day. RICE right away.
Lack of fluids can be a serious health concern. Immediate impact may be minimal. But many problems can result if proper hydration levels are not maintained. See also article on this subject from Sep, 1998. Have fluids on hand during training and remember that, in general, it is better to have too much than too little water.
Dry, cracking skin – A layer of tough skin on the sole of the feet is usually considered a good thing for people doing karate. But if you build up too much, the skin may start to crack. This may happen more often if you live in an arid climate. If this happens, I would suggest you file down the skin with a large file designed for such a purpose.
Plantar warts – These are small warts on the soles of the feet that often do not really cause much damage. They often go away on their own after a while. There are various remedies, ranging from applying Salicylic acid to having them surgically removed (burning them off). Believe it or not, the best way to fight these that I know of (and this has been documented by professionals in the field of podiatry) is to keep them covered with duct tape until they disappear.
Most joint problems developing as a result of karate training are preventable, or at least their impact can be minimized. There are of course pre-existing and genetic conditions. But most joint problems related to karate (a large portion of these concerning the knees) are results of hyper-extension, hyper-flexion or, much more commonly, misalignment. For more on the subject of alignment, please see article from March, 1998.
Jarring actions can greatly impact the pain and long-term effects of arthritis. For those with this condition, running, jumping and impact training should be done only with caution. Various vitamins and supplements can help, such as flax seed oil, glucosomine and shark cartilage, as well as various prescription medications.
There are different types of dislocations. Some are quite easily remedied and some are not. One important fact to consider if trying to deal with a dislocated joint is that relaxing helps immensely. Regardless of whether the joint can be immediately returned to its natural position or not, professional medical attention should be sought.
There are many other possible injuries, illnesses and conditions that may develop/occur resulting from karate training. Remember the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Be prepared and think about your training, as well as any changes in your medical condition (and, if you are an instructor, that of your students) and it should pay off.
*Post-script update: Please also see my blog on Femoro-Acetabular Impingement.
Copyright © 2022, Jon Keeling (originally published June 2004)