Common Wrestling Injuries and Their Prevention

Written By: Andrew J. Nasr, PT, DPT, Ph.D.(c). Andrew J. Nasr is an orthopaedic and sports physical therapist and has reached candidacy for a Ph.D. in Applied Clinical Research. His research focuses on advanced imaging techniques to investigate alterations in skeletal muscles following musculoskeletal injury.

Wrestling is a physically demanding sport that requires intense training and dedication. Wrestlers often push their bodies to the limit, putting themselves at risk of various injuries. While injuries are an inherent part of any athletic endeavor, understanding the common injuries associated with wrestling and implementing effective prevention strategies is crucial to ensure the safety and longevity of wrestlers' careers.

Common injuries are, well, common. Sprains and strains are among the most common sports-related injuries and are often confused for one another. These injuries affect the ligaments (sprains) and muscles or tendons (strains) and are often caused by overstretching or tearing these tissues. Ligaments are passive structures designed to add support to a joint. The most infamous ligament in sports is the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which we will discuss later. When a ligament is stressed beyond its capacity, the resultant injury is a sprain. Contrast that with a similar scenario but involving muscle or tendon, the resultant injury is a strain. The most relatable strain is a hamstring strain suffered during high-speed running. Simply stated, tendons connect muscles to bone to allow for movements of the skeletal system. Given the collision nature of wrestling, sprains and strains are unfortunately a common occurrence.

Hollywood Spotlight. Head injuries, specifically concussions, are a significant concern in sports and recently a focus in pop culture. Concussions do occur in wrestling however they do not occur at the same rate as other contact sports. They can result from direct impact to the head or neck, leading to symptoms like dizziness, confusion, and headaches. Repeated low impact directed at the head or neck can also lead to a concussion.

Fractures and Dislocations. Wrestling carries a risk of fractures and dislocations, primarily in the fingers, hands, and elbows, due to the high-impact nature of grappling. Gaining leverage on your opponent is the competitive goal however that can leave the athlete exposed, whether on the offensive or defensive.


Knee Injuries. Knee injuries, including ligament tears (ACL), are common in wrestling due to the quick directional changes and the load on the knees during takedowns and escapes. Meniscus injuries are also a concern in wrestling. The meniscus is a crescent-shaped wedges of fibrocartilage that provide increased stability to the knee joint, distributes loading across the knee, absorbs shock, and provides lubrication to the knee joint.

Shoulder Injuries. The shoulders are susceptible to injuries across most sports, particularly rotator cuff injuries and dislocations, because of the extensive arm movement and the strain imposed during competition. The anatomy of the shoulder joint exposes the shoulder to injury. To allow for such range of motion, the anatomy has to “sacrifice” stability and that is evident in the shoulder joint. Similar to the fracture and dislocation section, the focus on leverage can expose wrestlers to undue stress on the shoulder. 

Skin Infections. Anybody remotely familiar with wrestling knows skin infections are all too common. Wrestlers often contract skin infections, such as ringworm, which can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. This can be limited through sound personal hygiene (yes, please shower after practice or competition) and strict cleaning protocols of mats. 

Back and Neck. The most common reason an athlete will seek medical advice is for back and neck pain. Wrestling involves various techniques that put significant stress on the back and neck, increasing the risk of injuries like herniated discs and neck sprains. Spine injuries tend to increase in frequency in the higher weight classes. Taking down a foe in the 184-pound weight class requires core stability and brute strength. 

Injury prevention is simply unattainable however injury risk reduction should be an integral piece of any sound training program. Open dialogue between the coaching staff, athletic training staff, strength coaches, and team physicians is key for a multitude of reasons. Development of a sound training program can lead to a significant reduction in injury incidence. Some injuries are simply unavoidable, i.e. contact or collisions at high velocities (think take down where the athlete lands on the point of the shoulder). 

Proper Warm-Up and Stretching. Wrestlers should perform a thorough warm-up routine to prepare their muscles and joints for the physical demands of the sport. Dynamic stretching and mobility exercises can help prevent strains and sprains.

Technique Mastery. Correct technique is crucial in wrestling to prevent injuries. Coaches should ensure that wrestlers learn and consistently practice safe and efficient wrestling techniques.

Strength and Conditioning. A structured strength and conditioning program can help wrestlers build strength and endurance, reducing the risk of injuries. The physical demands of wrestling should be matched with any strength and conditioning program. Wrestlers need explosive strength to be successful and this should be obtained through a strength program. 

Headgear and Mouthguards. The use of headgear is required at the high school and college level and can significantly reduce the risk of concussions. Similarly, mouthguards can protect against dental and head injuries.

Proper Nutrition and Hydration. Maintaining a healthy diet and staying properly hydrated can help wrestlers avoid symptoms from overtraining and help manage their weight more safely. Fortunately, nutrition has gained attention in athletics and more athletes are focused on eating a clean(er) diet. You cannot out train a poor diet. 

Rest and Recovery. Adequate rest and recovery are essential for injury prevention. Overtraining can lead to fatigue and increased susceptibility to injuries, so wrestlers should schedule rest days into their training routines. High level athletes rarely want to take time away from training and wrestlers are the biggest offenders of pushing too hard. Rest is as important as training, however too much of either can result missed time. Wrestlers must train with purpose but should also rest and recover with purpose. 

Wrestling is a demanding sport that requires physical conditioning, skill, and mental toughness. While injuries are inevitable to some extent, they can be mitigated through a combination of appropriate strategies. Wrestlers and their coaches must be vigilant in implementing measures to safeguard their well-being and prolong their careers. By emphasizing proper training, technique, and healthy practices, athletes can help reduce the prevalence of injuries and ensure the safety and longevity of their career.

Back to blog