T Nation

Which Combat Sport w/ a Subluxated Shoulder?


I've dislocated or subluxated my left shoulder three times, once when dropping a dumbbell behing me, twice while boxing (kickboxing, but it happened when I landed a punch so I actually threw out my own arm). I thought I was doing good rehab/prehab work until it happened again last week (I do bands, kettlebells, TRX).

I'm not planning on competing, I just want to train some combat sport for self defense, general fitness and mastering a sport/hobby along with my weighttraining (this is why I'm not posting this at Sherdog, as I'd be killed for saying so). I'm 29, fairly strong and in good shape, 6ft4 and lean. Not gymnastically inclined. Any tips to which combat sport I could engage in, that would be easier on the shoulder than boxing?


Man I got no advice for ya but I belong to sherdog to and they can be some dumb fucks over there. I think any combat sport will have potential to hurt your shoulder. I would keep focusing on rehabing it I don't have any tips on how to rehab a shoulder. I would say maybe get into judo or something if you fuck it up when you are punching.


I've got a very, very similar problem to you. Perennial shoulder problems dating back to HS football, a couple of near misses while sparring (Felt like it ripped apart but didn't come out) and finally blew it apart one days trying to throw a straight left.

You can go into any traditional martial art and be alright. Judo, Okinawan karate, aikido, anything. These are typically not as hard on your joints and are not so severe in the brutality of their sparring. If you're looking for spiritual growth and discipline as well, any of them will be great.

If you're still looking to do at least some contact, choose carefully. Krav Maga can be decent, but you'll have to let your instructor know that you have a problem, and have to work around it. If he says anything but "Yea of course, that's fine" then find another school. Same with MMA. If they give you any of the "don't be a pussy" type shit (which I doubt they will, but you never know) stay away. Classes that are for the general working public and not fighters per se should be very, very used to dealing with all kinds of people with a plethora of old injuries.

I can still do MMA- padwork, bagwork, rolling, all that shit was fine. It was just the sparring, the unnatural angles, etc. that really fucked me up. Sounds like you're in the same boat.

Look for what's around you. If there's a judo school with a great rep, go there. If there's a traditional karate school that sounds cool, give that a shot. The teacher is generally more important than the art... i would just figure out if you want to stick with striking arts or go for a grappling one.


I also do the bandwork and other stuff... helps, but boxing and kickboxing are rough on rotators. The last thing you want is to have to get that fucking surgery.


Irish, have you got "forward shoulders" by any chance? I believe that might have been the culprit of my problem as my shoulder joints were halways "out" at the time of impact. Yeah, sounds like we're in the same boat. How is grappling on your shoulder? I realize the risk of having somebody pulling your shoulder the wrong way, to me it seems like more "static" work than the high impact that got my shoulder.


I'm not sure what you mean by forward shoulders.... I believe that the times that it popped out or nearly did so was when I was throwing a straight left hand at the same time the other guy was throwing a straight right. It got up under my arm and pushed it up, which caused it to pop out.

Believe it or not, grappling isn't too bad. I have good flexibility in the joint still, I'm just a little quicker to tap on one side than the other. You kind of have some control over it- it's not like boxing where it's one explosive move and the next thing you know the fucking thing is hanging out of the socket, you know?


for what it's worth, i have bad shoulders (and a bad back), but BJJ actually loosens me up better than anything else i've tried.


Irish, that's exactly what happened to me (the straight left being pushed up and out by a right). Quite a relief to hear that grappling isn't too bad, I have very little experience but imagined that there was more control involved. I was afraid my career as a recreational athlete would end at 29 or that I would have to pick up golf or some senior citizen tai chi class :wink:

By forward shoulders, by the way, I mean the hunched forward computer posture that so many of us have. Seems this hunched upper back / forward drooping shoulders brings the shoulders half way out of their socket, making them more vulnerable.

Also, I have too much and not too little flexibility in my joints I think (hypermobile, my chiro told me).

Cyco, how does BJJ loosen you up? The warm ups etc or the actual training?

Thanks guys, this info is golden for me.


I'm 29 and recently had two shoulder subluxations in judo, and am still training combat sports, so I'll you what I've been through.

My first dislocation was in a judo tournament in January and I took 2 months off, doing what I thought was good shoulder rehab (after reading a lot of articles here on T-Nation) but then after 8 weeks (mid march), I went back to judo and dislocated it during the very first class. I went to my doctor and he sent me to get a MRI of my shoulder and then consult with an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in shoulders. The MRI showed a torn labrum and a 30% torn rotator cuff ligament.

Given my desire to do judo, as well as kendo and submission grappling, the doctor told me that I have an 80% chance of further dislocation. The danger there is that right now I only have soft tissue damage, but as dislocations keep occurring there is a danger of the bones abrading. They can always fix soft tissue with surgery, but can't do anything about bone that is missing. After surgery I would have a 5% chance of reinjury, but the recovery sucks, and I want to keep training, so I've opted for 6 weeks of PT instead to try to really strengthen things properly.

My last dislocation was about 8 weeks ago now, and I'm weight training again, as well as grappling. (Judo grappling is just like BJJ so you can consider them the same) The grappling is actually surprisingly easy on my shoulder with the one exception of ude-garami (or kimura if you watch ufc) on my injured side. I've just learned to tap fast if it's sunk and not try to fight that side. I'm also doing kendo, which is very shoulder intensive but so far, aside from being stiff the day after, things are going well.

I plan on skipping judo this summer, and not trying it again until I really feel that I'm 100%. To me 100% means zero pain on external rotations, or no pain when grabbing the squat bar. It means not feeling that twinge when I bench, and being able to sleep on my side again. I've been icing the shoulder with a special wrap that I bought at the sports store right after class, because I've noticed that when I'm warmed up and loose, I barely feel any difference between healthy and bad shoulder, but if I don't ice before the pain sets in, the pain is much worse. Also, I'm taking 800mg ibuprofen twice a day and glucosamine as well as lots of fish oil.

I'm certain that you can train in combat sports if you take it easy, and honestly BJJ or grappling would be a pretty good choice. Make sure to get an MRI though, because your damage could be worse than mine.


Ahhh ok.

Nah, I don't have that. I've only been working at a computer for about a year, before that was about ten years of sports and blue collar work, so I'm not stricken just yet.

I can't lie- I'm really hesitant to box live again, but I do want to keep going. We're in the same boat.


for some reason BJJ really loosens up my lower back and hips...more so that anything i've ever done has. i have tons of issues with my back, but it's never been an issue wih rollin'

as far as joint locks effect on my shoulders, i've never really had an issue. the only thing that ever bugs my is by biceps tendon from armbars... a simple fix for that would be for me to get better and not get armbarred, i suppose!


You need an MRI to see if the Labrum is chipped. If it is, you will need surgery to keep your shoulder from dislocating. Otherwise rehab exercises will work. You might start with the Si Lim Tao and maybe Wing Chun to balance out the muscles then progress to Tai Chi, Hsing I or Bacqwa, After you can do those with out problems then go back to MMA and see how you hold up. Your looking at about a year to 18 months for it to fully heal and be stable enough to compete.


Ooh for the first time in a while.. I will disagree with Irish...
where usually we agree. its an old guy east coast thing.

Judo is kind of physical- more so then BJJ at least where I go,when I do get to go.
but I have played serious Judo for closer to 20 years so its a little different.

Other then that Judo is a good choice- but first you need to rehab and strengthen your shoulders,
there are some good articles, here under the titles shoulder savers- and you should check out
the ytwl protocol- here is a vid

Also learn take the time to start doing a good mobility warmup- makes a big deal as you get older..
look up wall slides, scap pushups, or pushup plus.

I have lingering shoulder and neck issues, that forced me to practically give up any rolling-more so the neck
multiple dislocations, torn ac joint, busted clavicle and well my neck is basically imobile-
but really I can train and roll occasionally by doing allot of mobility work



See I'm surprised!

When I did Goju-ryu, it tends to incorporate a good amount of judo-like throws, holds, etc. and I was fine with it. I agree on the rehab, and the scapula stuff- I do scap pushups once a week, work my rotators out a couple times, and I still feel like it's not enough.

But I feel BJJ is easier on the shoulder than anything else. Like I said, at least you've got some control over it. Explosive movements are what kill me the most. Even though it's controlled in judo to a degree, all it takes is a wrong move by someone and bang, your shoulders fucked again.


Most Def. going to get flamed for this...

But why not TaeKwonDo under a solid instructor and accredited school? It is the Foot Hand Way and while there is hand work it is mostly kicking. Plus it can be hella fun


This ain't Sherdog bro. No one is going to flame you for saying you study something than MMA.

Tae Kwon Do would be good for him too because of what you said. However, you still punch in TKD, which is the only reason I'd worry. If he wanted to compete in tournaments it might be rough, but as just an art to study it'd be fine.


There are two reasons that I want to study martial arts, one being pragmatical self defence. I did traditional jiu jitsu and ITF Tae Kwon Do when I was a kid / teenager, but found that this wasn't appliable to real world situation when getting into real trouble, the same way boxing and grappling was. Maybe because of the actual sparring involved, or maybe it was the clubs I was involved with (I'm from a small place, live in a major city now so that might be better). The other reason I want to do martial arts, is the actual sports element - staying in shape in that way you usually don't do by weights alone, and the constant skill building involved. Maybe TKD is a good thing, it did screw up my guard, though :slightly_smiling: Spent a long time learing to actually hold my hands up in boxing.