Can Jiu-Jitsu cause Brain Damage? Learn about the risks

rear naked choke

Jiu-Jitsu can cause brain damage to some extent. Many aspects of it are overlooked. The main reason for potential damage is chokes and head injuries. We are going to educate on some of the potential risks involved, however do know that BJJ is one of the safest martial arts out there and serious brain injuries are almost unknown of due to safety best practices.

Jiu-Jitsu is one of the best and most popular combat sports to ever exist. It’s a form of martial arts that uses techniques like grappling, torsions, submission holds, pressure points, and chokes to put the opponent to the ground and dominate them there. 

When it comes it fighting, there’s always the risk of getting injured or injuring someone else in the process. In most cases, injury occurs to the person on the receiving end. 

Now the question regarding Jiu-Jitsu is whether it can cause brain damage or not? The answer is yes to some extent. Jiu-Jitsu is not an offensive technique; it capitalizes on the anatomy of a human body and uses techniques to exploit those.

By using Jiu-Jitsu, any weak and smaller person can put someone bigger and stronger to the ground. These techniques involve choking and takedowns as well which can cause brain injury. 

When you sign up for any type of sport or learn any type of combat techniques, you should consider the possibility of any type of unwanted injuries. However, brain damage is no joke and that’s the last thing you want to happen to yourself or to anyone you care about.

It’s always good to know about the probable risks before committing to anything. So, let’s dig into the matter by knowing how exactly Jiu-Jitsu causes brain injury, and whether you should be concerned about it or not.

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Chokes Can Cause Brain Injury 

We know that Jiu-Jitsu involves different submission techniques and chokes. Jiu-Jitsu has the greatest number of chokes compared to other martial arts. Different submission techniques are applied to make the opponent tap out and a match stops when one of the opponents tap outs and surrenders. An MMA fighter receives and applies these submissions and chokes very often in the course of matches and practice sessions. All of these short periods of chokes can potentially cause neurological injuries leading to brain damage. 

According to a study, 2kg of force is enough to choke the jugular veins causing cerebral edema. 5kg of force to the carotid arteries can potentially cause hypoxic brain injury and choking the airways requires a higher amount of force of 15kg, which can cause death. By using neck chokes by applying pressure in certain areas, the blood flow of carotid and vertebral arteries can be totally stopped which is sufficient enough to cause death.

Long term athletes are on the receiving end of various types of chokes. Though these chokes last for a very short time, it can cause severe brain damage in the long run. Long-term repeated chokes can result in different hypoxic events to the brain leading to hypoxic-ischemic brain injury (HI-BI). Hypoxic-ischemic brain injury (HI-BI) patients are likely to face different types of neurological problems. 

Often being subjected to minor chokes can be a reason for frequent Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), even Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in the worst-case scenario. Many experienced Jiu-Jitsu practitioners and experts were diagnosed with CTE and the main reason behind it was frequent chokes.

rear naked choke

Blows Resulting in Concussion and Brain Trauma 

Head injuries can occur in BJJ. It’s more common for MMA fighters and they are often subjected to a concussion. A concussion is an impact between the brain slamming with the skull due to external blows resulting in a knockout. Its indirect damage to the brain is classified as a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). 

The general rule is the opposite side of the brain receives trauma after being subjected to a strike. So, if someone strikes the front portion of your head or forehead, the backside of your brain will hit the skull and get trauma. These can also happen in BJJ if the head is slammed to the ground or accidentally gets hit by an arm or leg.

Our skull exists for the sole reason of protecting our brain from external injuries as the brain is extremely sensitive. Though in most cases, a concussion is nothing to be worried about. A person can fully recover by taking sufficient rest. But it’s a matter of concern if it happens frequently. Frequent TBI can lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

In most cases, concussion or head trauma is not taken seriously. Moreover, getting knocked out or fainting isn’t necessary or a requirement for concussion. Some people like to push themselves and keep practicing or even fighting after receiving several blows to the head which can increase potentially more serious and permanent damage.


Jiu-Jitsu can potentially cause brain damage but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t start Jiu-Jitsu or stop it.

Any type of fighting sport has many risk factors and it’s good to know about the potential risks involved.

Now you know the potential risks of Jiu-Jitsu, you can minimize the risk by taking head blows and chokes seriously. Take proper rest and a break if necessary if you are subjected to any head blows. Moreover, most of the chokes occur in practice sessions. Put your ego in the backseat and tap sooner rather than later. Also, make sure that your practice opponent puts less pressure as possible while choking.

BJJ is a fantastic sport and injuries rarely occur despite being a full-body contact sport. Make sure that the gym where you train takes all the precautions and educates its members of training best practices. This makes sure that BJJ continues to be the fulfilling and life-long community sport which it is so well known for by its community.




I'm Timmy and I'm the chief-editor and co-founder of Jiu-Jitsu Street. You'll usually find me on the mats and also cross-training Muay Thai. Besides martial arts I'm also into functional fitness and all things health. Jiu-Jitsu Street was created to provide useful information for BJJ beginners and seasoned practitioners alike to help you on your journey and love for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Oss!

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Jiu-Jitsu Street is a community of fun loving and hard rolling BJJ enthusiasts. Born out of our passion for the gentle art, we have decided to create this blog and help you on your journey. Let’s grow and learn together on this never-ending journey. Oss!

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