BJJ Elbow Injury – How Long Will I Be Out With a UCL Tear?

Elbow injuries are among the most common injuries for a grappler to suffer from. Between takedowns and submissions, there is a lot of oppurtinities for grapplers to end up with nasty injuries. Elbow injuries don’t seem to be an injury that’s more prevalent in white belts, it seems to strike grapplers throughout the ranks. In the latest edition of our injury series, we will be looking at the prognosis for Ulnar Collateral Ligament injuries.

Grade 1 Injury – 2-3 Weeks

The Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) is vital for maintaining stability in the elbow joint. In jiu-jitsu, the vast majority of athletes who present with pain in the UCL area will likely be suffering from a grade 1 sprain. A grade 1 sprain will be uncomfortable, but the ligament will be structurally intact. While your brain might be telling you to push through the pain and continue to train, the best course of action at this point is taking a few weeks off the mats and following the RICE protocol.

Grade 2 Injury – 2 Months

A grade 2 injury means that the ligament has been sprained, but unlike a grade 1 injury, the ligament has also been stretched. A grade 2 will be significantly more painful than a grade 1 tear and the chances are that this injury was caused because you tried to tough out a submission. With this injury training is off the table for at least a month. RICE and anti-inflammatory medication will help, but it’s best to take it slow and steady with a UCL injury. Focus on cardio/leg workouts and give your elbow some time to heal.

Grade 3 Injury – 4 – 6 Months

With a grade 3 UCL injury you will have completely torn the ligament. This injury is common result of an overextended americana or another full locked in elbow attack. The prognosis for a full recovery from a UCL injury isn’t bad, but it can take some time. You’ll need surgery, which will involve 6 weeks of wearing a splint and a lengthy period of physical therapy. It’s possible to make it back to the mats in approximately 4 months, but take it easy. Expect to be nearing in on 100% recovery around the 6 month mark.

Looking for help with a BJJ injury? Book an online video consultation with BJJ black belt and osteopath Rosi Sexton.


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