The Trials and Tribulations of Muay Thai: How to Treat and Prevent 6 Common Injuries

I’ve been training muay Thai for over a decade now, and although I love it, it’s definitely not easy on the body. Here are some of the common injuries I’ve encountered and how I’ve dealt with them.

I have been training in the art of muay Thai for more than a decade now and I am in absolute love with the sport. Unfortunately for me though, the art of muay Thai is not soft on the body. In fact, I personally believe it’s one of the hardest sports or martial arts any athlete can undertake. From conditioning your shins and forearms, kicking elbows and knees with the tops of your feet, or getting used to being slammed in the ribs by kicks, knees, and punches. Every way you look at it, muay Thai is not easy on the body.

I remember years ago when I was fifteen, I was training with one of my instructors in a Chinese style of martial arts. In the corner of the gym there was a sand bag and I would always watch him rip kick after kick into it every day after he finished training us. Time passed and both my ego and curiosity grew until one day I decided to kick it as hard as I could. Upon making contact with the bag I realized it felt like I had just kicked solid concrete. I immediately regretted my decision of attempting to be a badass. I think my shin was bruised for several weeks and I walked funny for a few days. After I made a fool of myself my teacher approached me and said, “If you really want to learn about pain, study the art of muay Thai.”

Years later I completely understand what he was talking about. Currently I have three sprained toes, several bruised metatarsals, a sprained ankle, and a nasty case of plantar fasciitis in both feet. Muay Thai is extremely fun and gratifying, but it does take a heavy toll on the body. As with any contact sport, injuries are common. Below are some of the basic ones, how to prevent them, and their treatments so that you can hopefully avoid them during your time training.

Sprained Wrists

  • Prevention: Make sure your hands are always wrapped properly before punching and that your gloves are tightly secured. Always make sure your fist is clenched at the point of impact.
  • Treatment: Ice, heat, and rest.

Banged Up Elbows

  • Prevention: Try not to get kicked in the forearm. Make sure not to hyperextend your elbows while punching. Make sure those holding pads for you have been properly instructed in how to do so.
  • Treatment: If you are suffering from any type of elbow pain, minimize punching as much as possible. Also, no more sparring until it’s better. Ice, heat, and rest as necessary.

Bruised Ribs

  • Prevention: Don’t get hit.
  • Treatment: Suck it up and get back to training. Use caution when you spar and make sure your partners know about your injury. Always use common sense when dealing with bruised ribs. If it’s killing you take some time off and let your body heal.

Bruised Shins

Shin conditioning is a huge part of muay Thai and is something everyone will have to do if you want to participate in the sport. If you practice muay Thai chances are your shins will always be taking a little damage. On the other hand, the more they get beat up the harder and more resilient they become.

  • Prevention: Condition your shins gradually. Use shin guards when sparring, but occasionally practice drilling without shin guards.
  • Treatment: Ice and rest. If your shins are really beat up, refrain from kicking for a few days or try wearing your shin guards when you hit the bag or pads. When sparring just box and clinch.

Ankle or Foot Sprains

  • Prevention: Avoid hitting your opponent’s elbow and knees when kicking as much as possible. Prehab exercises such as calf raises and agility ladder drills are great for strengthening the ankles.
  • Treatment: Ice, heat, rest, and rehab (depending on severity of the injury).

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis can be one of the most evil and nagging injuries an athlete can sustain. Any person who spends extended periods of time on the balls of the feet is susceptible to this terrible condition.

  • Prevention: Constantly stretch your calf muscles, do self-myofascial release of the calf and foot, and individually stretch the toes.
  • Treatment: Taping of the foot, foot ice bath, self-myofascial release of the calf and foot, stretching of the calf muscles.

Photos courtesy of Orion Lee.