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BJJ Finger Care

As you can see from the photo, my hands look like an arthritic 80yo hands. Eleven years of Jiujitsu grips take a heavy toll. Those thickened nodes on my fingers are called Heberden Nodes (more information on Heberden Nodes here), which are formed from repeated trauma and overuse of the finger joints. I can no longer form a complete closed fist and I will never be able to wear a traditional wedding ring.

Jiujitsu fingers, less or more desirable than cauliflower ears?
Jiujitsu fingers, less or more desirable than cauliflower ears?

That left ring finger knuckle is from having my grips stripped, hard, when I was trying to torreander pass a black belt back in my blue belt days. I’m pretty sure I dislocated that joint and tore a bunch of ligaments, but I continued training without rest. Damage to all other fingers are just from normal Jiujitsu wear and tear. Fingers get caught, sometimes they accidentally get pulled at the wrong angle, and sometimes the joints get worn just from overuse during heavy gi gripping sessions. The ring finger on either hand have suffered the worst, and it seems to be a common spot of pain for a lot of people I've spoken to.

As a first line of defense, I’ve found taping worked really well in reducing the amount of soreness and pain. Taping also help to prevent finger injuries in the first place. You'll notice from the photo above, my left hand fingers seem to have less protrusion on the joints, this is probably because I taped the shit out of them after my ring finger dislocation.

The video below shows how I usually tape my fingers before training. I tape each finger individually, and when training really picks up, I buddy tape them to each other for extra support.

I used to tape my fingers before every training session, but I haven’t bothered recently, because I don’t train as hard, consequently subject them to less torture.

Personally I use Johnson and Johnson’s sports tape, I’ve found it to be the right balance of stickiness to strength and ability to stay on when needed. There are plenty of good grappler specific tape out there too if you like the convenience of not having to rip strips of tape. I’ve found they’re generally more costly per inch than regular sports tape though.

Secondly, I've found stretching has been a great way to reduce stiffness in my fingers and improve range of motion.

The way I stretch my fingers is pretty straight forward, I push each individual finger against the other hand until I feel a stretch, and hold for a 10 count. I generally repeat this with each finger twice, three times a day during training days. This seems to help me reduce stiffness straight away and my fingers feel less like Mr Burn’s fingers the next day.

Thirdly, I try to alternate between training with gi grips and training without gi grips every other day. Even during gi classes, I practice my no-gi grips and pretend my partner is not wearing a gi during rolling. This helps with giving my fingers a chance to recover and I get to work on my no-gi game at the same time.

These are a few of the things I’ve found to have helped my fingers feel less sore and reduce the pain from the decade of gi sleeve grips. I hope the above helps you and you won't ever have to suffer from fingers like mine.

Happy grappling!



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