Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Are martial arts good for your joints?

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A very interesting post at the Washington Posts’s Health section on a study of some other studies on osteoarthritis of the knee and the relationship to physical activity: The Checkup - Study finds exercise is actually good for your knees. A few of the highlights:

  • “…many of the studies' findings appeared to conflict with one another, some finding that exercise hurt knees, others finding just the opposite or no effect one way or another” No surprises there. It seems to me that many studies are commissioned in order to arrive at a pre-determined conclusion, in a manner similar to polling, thus it’s critical to be able to view the raw data and all information related in order to determine the veracity of the results. In other words, don’t trust without verifying, to quote a wise president.
  • “…exercise does appear to promote the growth of osteophytes, or bony spurs, in the knee joint. But in the absence of accompanying cartilage damage, the researchers suggest, those spurs may simply be the body's healthy response to ongoing mechanical stimulation from physical activity, not evidence of disease.”

Their conclusion was that what’s been viewed as damage is simply adaptation, in most cases, and that the exercise is actually strengthening the knee and adapting to prevent damage (my interpretation only).

What relevance does this have for those of us who strike more than the ground with our feet? Perhaps it’s not much. My problem is that I have never seen a study which focused on the effects of martial arts training on the joints. It may be out there, but I’ve not seen it. Have you?

I will say that, in the 35 or so years (I won’t say how may the “or so” is, I’ve never sustained an injury from the training itself. It was always something like planting a foot incorrectly, poor technique, or an overzealous (or beginning) student or training partner. And my knees are great, even though most of my training has been in striking styles, I have always enjoyed kicking, a so did a lot of it.

Here’s my reader participation question:
1) What types of joint injures have you sustained?
2) Were those injuries preventable?

Please comment, or join our conversation on Facebook.

Hat tip: Guy via Twitter

Photo Credit: D.L. via Flickr

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5 comments:

Noah said...

I have dislocated my right knee twice, but only once was while training in martial arts (the first time I was just walking, so my knee was a problem to start with, apparently). I was throwing a grappling dummy in Judo class because there wasn't anyone but my instructor and myself in class. He had me throw it with tai-otoshi but because of its dead-weight-effect it simply crashed into the side of my extended leg. Luckily my knee relocated itself when I collapsed (which also happened the first time it dislocated) so I didn't have to have the agony and anticipation of having it put back in place manually. The only way it really could have been avoided was to not use the throwing dummy or not use tai-otoshi, as far as I know--from my instructor's account I did the throw perfectly :P

Icepak said...

Spinal fusion surgery - I'm fairly certain that the herniated disk that resulted from performing a jumping spinning hook kick along with two microdisectomies killed the fluid in my disc over time. Eventually, it almost got to bone-on-bone and caused acute sciatica and foot drop.

Nathan Teodoro said...

Whoah! All I can say is that I'm guessing I've been lucky!

In the post, I was more focused on the knee joints, but am glad that we opened up with question. Icepak, I had no idea that happened - I can only imagine the pain, since I do have a bad back, too, but attribute mine to a series of auto accidents.

SenseiMattKlein said...

Hi Nathan,
Had back surgery, knee reconstruction ACL, facet joint problems. Still going strong, thanks to constant stretching and discovering yoga two years ago. Also, no more competition or full contact sparring with guys half my age has helped. Takes too long to heal. I do believe some of it was hereditary, not caused by training.

Nathan at TDA Training said...

Sensei Matt - again, maybe I don't train as hard, or have just been lucky. Glad the Yoga is working. I may have to join you.