Secrets To Treating Martial Arts Injuries

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This young tae kwon do athlete attempts to break a board by using a turn kick during a promotion test. If the student has not built up enough power, speed and accuracy to strike the board with the correct technique, there can be resulting trauma to the fo
Secrets To Treating Martial Arts Injuries
84
Author(s): 
By Mark A. Caselli, DPM, and Edward C. Rzonca, DPM

   Martial arts, such as karate and tae kwon do, have become very popular in recent years for both adults and children. Karate and tae kwon do have been promoted as excellent activities for maintaining good health and fitness. People frequently perform these activities after school or work.

   Given that the foot and ankle account for at least 10 percent of the total injuries sustained in the martial arts — and may even be higher due to the lack of reporting of many digital injuries such as contusions, toenail trauma and uncomplicated fractures — most podiatrists are likely to encounter these athletes in their offices.

   Students of the martial arts practice kicking and punching to improve their techniques and power. Students start with simpler kicks and work up to more difficult techniques. Attempting a more difficult kick without the appropriate training will often cause injury. The culmination of all the training efforts occurs during sparring matches either at the student’s martial arts school or in a tournament. Sparring too early without the proper training is also a common cause of injury.

   The student becomes injured due to either a lack of balance, flexibility, strength or speed. For example, one can kick and punch while standing in one location or while moving. The ability to deliver an appropriate kick or punch depends on the student’s flexibility and balance. In delivering a front snap kick, which requires an upward movement of the foot and leg, lack of hamstring flexibility can either reduce the effective height of the kick or tear the hamstrings while the athlete executes the kick. A lack of balance while performing this move will cause the support foot to be loaded without stability. This can produce sprains or strains of the foot and ankle.

   Strength and speed also play a role for those who participate in the martial arts, especially when they attempt sparring. The ability to move in and execute an attack on an opponent and retreat prior to being attacked is critical. If an athlete lacks speed and strength, the opponent has the ability to execute countermeasures. The countermeasures may throw the initial aggressor off balance, which can result in an injury.

What Causes Common Types Of Martial Arts Injuries?

   Blunt force trauma and sprains are the two basic categories of martial arts injuries that occur in the foot. Blunt force trauma injury is a direct result of the foot hitting another solid object. The object could be a sparring bag, a board, an opponent or other firm objects used in the practice of martial arts. Students frequently use heavy canvas sparring bags for kicking and punching in order to improve strength and technique. If one dorsiflexes the digits as opposed to plantarflexing the digits while striking the bag with a roundhouse kick, this improper technique will result in blunt force trauma.

   Boards varying from 1/2 inch to 1 inch in thickness are used as part of promotion tests as a student passes to the next level throughout the training experience. The boards are lined up (either singularly or in multiples) and students use their hands or feet to break them. If the student has not built up the power, speed or accuracy to strike the board with the correct technique, there can be resulting trauma to the foot or hand. Martial arts instructors assess each student to determine the level of breaking skill. Inappropriate execution on the part of the student can be very painful.

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