Common Wrestling Aches, Pains and Injuries

Wrestling

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Wrestling is an intense and demanding sport most commonly practiced at the high school, college, and Olympic levels. While most wrestling injuries include typical strains and sprains, serious, traumatic, and unusual injuries can also occur.

Using proper safety gear and learning good techniques can go a long way to reducing the risk of injuries during wrestling.

According to data from the Center for Injury Research and Policy, football and wrestling are the two high school sports with the highest risk of serious injury to athletes.

Data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association Injury Surveillance Program shows that the injury rate for college wrestlers is 9.3 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures. Of these injuries, the majority occur during competition, particularly during take-downs.

Most Common Wrestling Injuries

While serious wrestling injuries do occur, fortunately, the most common wrestling injuries are not serious and are similar to those seen in other sports. These include:

  • Bruises and contusions: Take-downs, sparring, and hard landings all result in various bruises and contusions to wrestlers.
  • Sprains and strains: The best immediate treatment for sprains and strains is the R.I.C.E. method. Two sprains that often occur:
  • Ankle sprains: Ankle sprains occur when there is a stretching and tearing of ligaments surrounding the ankle joint.
  • Wrist sprains: A sprained wrist typically occurs when a wrestler stretches or tears the ligaments of the wrist. Falling or landing hard on the hands is a common cause of wrist sprains.
  • Overtraining syndrome: Overtraining syndrome frequently occurs in athletes who train beyond the body's ability to recover.
  • Dehydration: Another serious health problem that many wrestlers deal with includes dehydration while trying to "make weight."
  • Muscle soreness: This is the sort of muscle soreness experienced 12 to 48 hours after a tough workout or competition. Getting enough rest often is all that is needed to recover.

Regardless of how common or seemingly not serious an injury or medical condition is, it's important to rest and recover as well as tell a coach and health care professional. Some injuries and conditions can become serious if left untreated.

Most Serious Wrestling Injuries

The most serious wrestling injuries affect the shoulder, elbow, knee, and neck. The data suggest that the most common cause of wrestling injuries is forcing a joint beyond its acceptable range of motion. The most common serious or traumatic wrestling injuries include:

  • Shoulder injuries: The majority of the upper body and shoulder injuries in wrestlers are caused by the combination of leverage and twisting during competition. Types of shoulder injuries include rotator cuff injury, shoulder separation, and shoulder dislocation.
  • Knee injuries: The majority of knee injuries in wrestlers occur to the ligaments of the knee joint. These include anterior and posterior cruciate ligament (ACL/PCL) injuries.
  • Elbow dislocation: Elbows are under tremendous strain during wrestling maneuvers, and dislocations of the radial head are often related to a fall on an outstretched arm during take-downs as the wrestler braces for a fall.
  • Neck injuries: The cervical vertebrae are often forced into vulnerable positions during many wrestling moves, which can result in several types of neck injuries.

Common neck injuries

Other Wrestling Injuries

The following list includes other injuries that many wrestlers are likely to have at one time or another.

Although these injuries are not on the list of the most common, if you wrestle, you may have or know someone who had any number of the following wrestling-related injuries.

Safety Tips for Wrestlers

Wrestling requires a high degree of flexibility, strength, and proper technique to prevent injury. It's essential for athletes to have appropriate instruction and coaching and always to follow basic safety precautions. Here are some tips from the top wrestling coaches and the National Athletic Trainers Association.

  • Choose a qualified coach: Train with a highly skilled and qualified coach specializing in proper wrestling safety training.
  • Improve joint flexibility: Studies show that wrestlers with a high degree of shoulder flexibility suffer fewer shoulder injuries, but the flexibility of the lower back, hamstrings, elbows and cervical spine is also essential.​
  • Avoid dangerous holds and "slamming" moves: Coaches and referees need to strictly enforce rules to encourage safe wrestling techniques and the use of proper safety gear and equipment.
  • Cut weight safely: Avoid dramatic weight loss and weight cutting strategies by maintaining good nutrition and hydration throughout the season.
  • Gear-up: Wear appropriate safety gear, including headgear and mouth guards, during all wrestling practices, meets, and tournaments.
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  1. Kroshus E, Utter AC, Pierpoint LA, et al. The first decade of web-based sports injury surveillance: Descriptive epidemiology of injuries in US high school boys' wrestling (2005-2006 through 2013-2014) and National Collegiate Athletic Association men's wrestling (2004-2005 through 2013-2014). J Athl Train. 2018;53(12):1143-1155. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-154-17