In the movie “The Program,” the star freshman running back takes a big hit in practice and stays on the ground. The coach asks the star if he is hurt or injured, explaining that if he is hurt, he can still play, but if he is injured he cannot. This distinction between being hurt and injured in football is valid, because there is another person who can come in and take the injured player’s place. In MMA, however, there is no distinction between being hurt and injured. There are no substitutes and fighters who do not train do not improve. Depending on the injury, MMA fighters can keep training and sometimes make their greatest gains.
Leo Dalla (fifth-degree BJJ black belt) advises his students who are injured to come to keep coming to class and do whatever they are capable of. For example, if the student has a sprained wrist or shoulder, tuck the arm inside the belt and keep training. The student needs to be smart about who they train with and how hard they go, but they can keep going. If the injury is too severe, then the student is advised to still come and watch the training to stay in the mindset of a fighter.
This slideshow focuses on five ways that injured fighters can keep training. There can be some real benefits to training injured, such as enhancing movement and developing new techniques. In fact, the half-guard in BJJ became an offensive position because Robert "Gordo" Correa suffered a knee injury in training and could only train from the half-guard. Now the half-guard is one of the most effective positions in competitions. The key is to stay smart, accept the limitations of the injury and remain positive.