Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Is Wrestling Bad For You?



Short answer

Wrestling can lead to physical injuries like sprains, strains, and fractures, and mental stress from performance pressure. Weight cutting poses risks such as dehydration and nutrient deficiencies. However, with proper technique, adequate rest, balanced nutrition, and psychological support, many of these risks can be mitigated. Infection control through hygiene and safe weight management is also crucial. The sport offers benefits like increased strength, discipline, and stress management, and instills valuable life skills, making it a potentially positive endeavor when approached responsibly.



Long answer

Physical Injury Risks in Wrestling

Engaging in wrestling, like any contact sport, carries a risk of physical injury. These risks stem from the intense physical contact, dynamic movements, and sometimes high-impact maneuvers characteristic of the sport. Understanding the types of injuries commonly associated with wrestling can help participants prepare and protect themselves as much as possible. Here we'll delve into the various physical injury risks that wrestlers may encounter on the mat.

Common Types of Wrestling Injuries

  • Acute Injuries: These are sudden injuries that occur as a result of a specific impact or traumatic event. Examples include sprains, strains, fractures, dislocations, and concussions.
  • Overuse Injuries: Repeated stress on a muscle group or joint without adequate rest can lead to overuse injuries such as tendonitis or stress fractures.
  • Soft Tissue Injuries: Wrestlers often sustain bruises, abrasions, and lacerations. While generally less severe, they require proper care to prevent infection.
  • Joint Injuries: Due to the twisting and forceful impacts, knee and shoulder injuries are particularly common. For example, meniscus tears in the knee or rotator cuff injuries in the shoulder often plague wrestlers.
  • Neck and Spine Injuries: The neck and spine are vulnerable to strain or more serious injury from certain holds and falls.
  • Skin Infections: Though not an injury per se, skin infections from mat burns or contact with other wrestlers can be a concern and require prompt treatment.

Injury Prevention Strategies

  • Proper Technique: Learning and practicing correct wrestling moves and holds is essential to minimizing the risk of injury.
  • Strength Training: Building muscle strength, particularly in the core, can provide better stability and reduce the chance of injury.
  • Flexibility Training: Incorporating exercises that improve flexibility can help prevent muscle and tendon injuries.
  • Adequate Rest: Ensuring sufficient rest and recovery time between intense workouts and matches can prevent overuse injuries.
  • Nutritious Diet: Fueling the body with the right nutrients is crucial for muscle recovery and overall physical resilience.
  • Protective Gear: Use of headgear, knee pads, and mouthguards can provide added protection against some of the common wrestling injuries.

Statistics and Studies on Wrestling Injuries

A study published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine found that injury rates in wrestling were higher during competition than during practice, with knee injuries being the most common. Another study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information highlighted that while serious injuries such as spinal cord injuries were less common, they carry significant long-term consequences when they do occur. Furthermore, research has shown that the prevalence of skin infections in wrestlers has led to the development of specific hygiene protocols aimed at reducing the spread of bacteria, fungi, and viruses commonly found on wrestling mats.

It's important for wrestlers, coaches, and athletic trainers to stay informed about up-to-date safety practices and emerging research to mitigate risks. Instructors should be versed in first-aid and injury care, and athletes should have access to prompt medical attention when injuries occur. A balance between pushing the body to its competitive potential and listening to its limits is the delicate dance every wrestler must learn.

Weight Cutting Practices and Long-term Health

Weight cutting, a practice wherein athletes attempt to rapidly lose weight to qualify for a weight class, is not uncommon in wrestling. While it might offer a competitive edge in the short term, this strategy can carry significant risks, particularly when it comes to long-term health. Here we'll delve into the potential health implications and consider expert opinions to understand the broader impact of weight cutting practices on wrestlers.

Dehydration and Electrolyte Imbalance: Wrestlers often undergo severe dehydration to meet weight requirements. This can lead to electrolyte imbalances, which are critical for muscle function and heart rhythm. Prolonged practices of dehydration can increase the risk of kidney failure, heat stroke, and cardiac events.

  • Short-term risk: Acute health emergencies related to dehydration.
  • Long-term risk: Chronic kidney damage and cardiovascular issues.

Nutritional Deficiencies: Rapid weight loss often involves restrictive diets that can lead to deficiencies in essential nutrients. Over time, nutrient deficiencies can compromise the immune system, impair bone health, and lead to other systemic issues.

  • Short-term risk: Impaired performance, increased injury risk.
  • Long-term risk: Osteoporosis, anemia, and compromised organ function.

Metabolic Changes: Consistent weight cutting can alter basal metabolic rate (BMR). One study has shown that repeated cycles of weight loss and gain can lead to long-lasting metabolic changes that could predispose individuals to obesity and metabolic syndrome later in life. (Source: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism)

  • Short-term risk: Metabolic slowdown and reduced energy levels.
  • Long-term risk: Obesity, diabetes, and thyroid dysfunctions.

Mental Health Impact: The psychological toll of intense weight management can be considerable. The pressure to meet weight classes can lead to eating disorders, anxiety, and depression.

  • Short-term risk: Stress, eating disorders, and concentration difficulties.
  • Long-term risk: Chronic mental health conditions and body image issues.

Immune System Compromisation: Extreme dieting and weight cycling can weaken the immune system, making athletes more susceptible to infections and illnesses. This not only impacts their performance but also their ability to recover and maintain health in the long-term.

  • Short-term risk: Increased frequency of infections and illnesses.
  • Long-term risk: Impaired immune response and recovery rates.

To mitigate these risks, sports health professionals advocate for more sensible weight management strategies that prioritize the wrestler’s well-being over competitive advantage. Recommendations include gradual weight loss, proper hydration, balanced nutrition, and psychological support.

Experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics have specifically advised against rapid weight loss and encourage the monitoring of young wrestlers by coaches and medical professionals to ensure healthy practices. (Source: American Academy of Pediatrics)

Ultimately, while weight cutting can be a part of wrestling culture, it's important for athletes, coaches, and parents to consider the potential long-term health consequences and weigh them against the short-term benefits of making a weight class. Educating the wrestling community on safer weight management practices is essential for the physical and mental well-being of the athletes.

Mental Stress and its Effects on Wrestlers

In the world of sports, wrestling stands out as an intensely physical and strategic sport that demands a lot from its athletes—not just physically, but also mentally. It’s no secret that this can lead to significant mental stress, which affects wrestlers in various ways. Let's unpack the multifaceted impact of mental stress on wrestlers and discuss strategies to manage it.

Firstly, the pressure to perform can be immense. Wrestlers often have rigorous training schedules, significant weight management demands, and the constant push to improve technique and strength. According to a study published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, competitive anxiety is a common issue among wrestlers, which can impact performance and lead to burnout.

Another element of mental stress is the fear of injury. Wrestling, being a contact sport, comes with a higher risk of physical injuries that can sideline athletes for extended periods. The stress associated with injury, recovery, and the prospect of returning to competition can weigh heavily on a wrestler's mind, affecting their mental health. Research from the American Journal of Sports Medicine indicates that athletes who experience serious injuries may also suffer from symptoms associated with depression and anxiety during their recovery.

The structure of the sport itself can also contribute to mental strain. Unlike team sports, wrestling is largely an individual endeavor, which can lead to a sense of isolation and personal responsibility for outcomes. This can increase stress levels, particularly in preparation for matches where the focus is on individual achievement.

Effective stress management strategies are essential for wrestlers to maintain mental health and optimize performance. These include:

  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Practices such as meditation, deep-breathing exercises, and yoga can help reduce anxiety and improve focus.
  • Psychological skill development: Working with sports psychologists can enhance coping mechanisms, such as positive visualization and cognitive restructuring.
  • Support systems: Creating a network of support from coaches, family, friends, and fellow athletes can provide encouragement and a sense of community.
  • Balanced lifestyle: Ensuring that life outside the sport is fulfilling can help mitigate the effects of stress within it. Activities and relationships unrelated to wrestling can provide a necessary counterbalance.

Dealing with the mental challenges of wrestling is not just about combatting negative stress; it's also about cultivating a positive mindset. This includes setting realistic goals, celebrating small victories, and learning from losses without self-criticism. A study published in the International Journal of Wrestling Science found that goal setting, along with other cognitive-behavioral strategies, can enhance both mental well-being and athletic performance.

Ultimately, recognizing the impact of mental stress on wrestlers is crucial. By addressing the emotional and psychological demands of the sport, wrestlers can not only improve their well-being but also enhance their performance, resilience, and enjoyment of wrestling as a competitive and rewarding pursuit.

Infection Risks on the Wrestling Mat

Wrestling is a physically demanding sport that requires close contact between competitors. This environment, unfortunately, is ripe for the transmission of various infections. Let's delve into some of the common infections found on the wrestling mat, how they spread, and the measures one can take to mitigate these risks.

Common Mat Infections:

  • Ringworm (Tinea corporis): A fungal infection characterized by a red, circular rash that can be itchy. It spreads through skin-to-skin contact or contact with contaminated surfaces such as wrestling mats.
  • Herpes Gladiatorum: Caused by the herpes simplex virus, this infection leads to painful skin sores. Direct contact is the primary mode of transmission.
  • Impetigo: A highly contagious bacterial skin infection presenting as red sores or blisters. It can be passed by touch, shared equipment, or clothing.
  • Staph Infection (Staphylococcus aureus): Including MRSA, these bacterial infections can cause painful swollen areas on the skin. Transmission can occur through cuts or abrasions on the skin.

Transmission Pathways:

  • Skin-to-skin contact during wrestling matches
  • Sharing personal items like towels, clothing, or headgear
  • Contact with contaminated surfaces, including mats, benches, and equipment

Understanding that all these infections thrive in warm, moist environments typical of a wrestling gym is crucial. The combination of sweat, abrasions, and close contact creates a perfect storm for infections to spread.

Prevention Strategies:

  • Maintain personal hygiene: Regularly showering immediately after practice or competition is essential, as is avoiding sharing personal items like towels and razors.
  • Proper cleaning of equipment: Wrestling mats and gear should be cleaned and disinfected after each use. Use a cleaner specifically designed to kill fungal and bacterial pathogens.
  • Skin inspections: Coaches and trainers should conduct regular skin checks on wrestlers to identify and treat infections early before they spread.
  • Educating wrestlers: Athletes should be informed about the risks and signs of infections, emphasizing the importance of reporting any skin issues immediately.
  • Using protective barriers: When appropriate, use of barriers like knee pads or sleeves can prevent skin from contacting potentially contaminated surfaces.
  • Appropriate wound care: Any skin abrasions or cuts should be promptly cleaned and bandaged to minimize the risk of infection.
  • Ensuring vaccination: Keeping up to date with vaccines, such as those for varicella (chickenpox), can prevent certain viral infections.

Overall, while infections are a known risk in wrestling, understanding these risks and implementing proactive measures can significantly lower the chances of encountering an infection on the mat. Remember, when participating in sports like wrestling, your health and safety come first. Taking a few extra moments for hygiene and care can go a long way in protecting yourself and your fellow athletes from infection.

Note: If an infection is suspected, it's important to seek medical attention immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent the spread of the infection to teammates and also reduce the downtime from the sport.

Building Strength and Discipline through Wrestling

Engaging in wrestling does not merely build muscle and physical prowess; it is also a testament to the cultivation of inner strength and discipline that athletes often develop. The intense training and the mental preparation required for wrestling are just as crucial as the bouts themselves. Wrestling demands a level of commitment that can forge an individual's character and self-discipline, shaping not just bodies but minds.

Physical Benefits:

  • Increased Muscle Strength: Wrestling involves various techniques that require strength, such as lifting, takedown, and pinning maneuvers, which can significantly enhance muscle tone and endurance. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research highlights that wrestlers have higher isometric strength compared to untrained counterparts.
  • Improved Flexibility: The sport requires athletes to perform in a wide range of motion, which naturally leads to increased flexibility. Flexibility is key to preventing injuries, something every wrestler needs to be mindful of.
  • Cardiovascular Fitness: Wrestling matches are high-intensity by nature, and training typically includes conditioning that bolsters heart health.

Mental Fortitude:

  • Enhanced Focus: The strategic aspect of wrestling requires competitors to stay mentally engaged and focused, a skill that is beneficial in various life scenarios.
  • Stress Management: Intense physical activity like wrestling has been shown to help manage stress and anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
  • Discipline: Regular training instills a sense of discipline in athletes. Wrestlers learn the importance of routine and consistency, which often extends into other areas of their lives.

Wrestling promotes a unique blend of not just discipline but also a sense of accountability. Wrestlers are held accountable for their diet, weight, and training which nurtures self-reliance. As they gainsay pain and exhaustion, they forge a resilience that can help them face life's challenges with a steeled resolve.

It's important to note, however, that building strength and discipline in wrestling does require a safe and structured environment. Coaches and trainers play a pivotal role here, ensuring that training sessions are conducted safely while still challenging athletes to grow and improve.

Finally, wrestling instills teamwork and camaraderie, despite its individualistic nature during competition. The support system created in wrestling teams can teach valuable social skills and reinforce the idea that while individual effort is important, being part of a community and working with others can lead to greater success, both on the mat and in life.

Safe Training Practices and Injury Prevention Techniques

Wrestling, like any physical sport, comes with its inherent risks. However, engaging in safe training practices and employing injury prevention techniques can significantly reduce the chance of getting hurt. Whether you're grappling on the school team or enjoying the sport recreationally, understanding how to protect yourself is essential. Here's how to minimize the risk:

  • Warm-Up Properly: A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research emphasizes the importance of a comprehensive warm-up to increase blood flow to the muscles and decrease the risk of strains and sprains.
  • Use Protective Gear: Headgear, mouth guards, knee pads, and proper wrestling shoes are non-negotiable. They protect vulnerable parts of the body and can prevent common injuries such as cauliflower ear, dental injuries, and mat burns.
  • Learn Proper Techniques: Poor technique is a fast track to injury. Invest time with qualified coaches to learn the correct way to execute moves. This includes how to fall safely to avoid concussions and joint injuries.
  • Strength and Conditioning: Regular strength training can reinforce the muscles around crucial joints, making them more resilient to the stresses of wrestling, indicates the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Flexibility Training: Flexibility can help prevent muscle and tendon injuries. Dedicate time to stretching both before and after practice to maintain a good range of motion.
  • Hydrate and Nourish Your Body: Proper nutrition and hydration are vital components of injury prevention. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, adequate fluid intake before, during, and after training can help avoid heat-related illnesses.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Cutting weight rapidly can be hazardous. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise, rather than 'weight cutting,' is safer and leads to better performance.
  • Rest and Recovery: Without adequate rest, the body cannot repair itself effectively. Ensure you're getting enough sleep and utilizing recovery days to prevent overtraining, which can lead to injuries.
  • Follow Rules and Etiquette: Wrestling's rules are designed for the safety of its participants. Respect for opponents and adherence to the guidelines during training and matches can prevent unnecessary harm.
  • Consult with Healthcare Professionals: Regular check-ups with a healthcare provider familiar with sports medicine can help identify potential concerns before they develop into injuries.

Remember, sustained and consistent application of these practices is necessary for their effectiveness. It’s not about doing them once; it’s about integrating them into your regular training regimen. By focusing on both the physical and psychological aspects of safety and injury prevention, wrestlers can continue to enjoy the sport while minimizing the risk of harm.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, there are several specific measures to prevent skin infections in wrestling. It's important to shower immediately after practices or matches, avoid sharing personal hygiene items, and ensure that mats and gear are regularly disinfected. Regular skin checks can also catch infections early on, and appropriate wound care can prevent bacteria from entering the body. Wearing protective barriers like knee pads may also reduce direct contact with contaminated surfaces.

Absolutely! Embracing proper wrestling techniques is crucial in preventing acute injuries. These techniques, taught by experienced coaches, help wrestlers execute moves correctly and safely, reducing the risk of traumatic events such as sprains, fractures, and concussions. Moreover, mastering the art of falling correctly is part of these techniques, which can mitigate the impact on the body during high-intensity maneuvers.

Wrestlers can maintain mental health by incorporating mindfulness practices, such as meditation and deep-breathing exercises, to reduce anxiety. Working with sports psychologists can help develop effective coping mechanisms. Additionally, fostering a strong support system and engaging in fulfilling activities outside of wrestling can provide balance and mitigate the effects of stress.

Nutrition plays a pivotal role in wrestling injury prevention. By fueling the body with a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients, wrestlers can support muscle recovery, maintain a healthy immune system, and enhance overall physical resilience. Adequate hydration is also a key component, as it helps maintain electrolyte balance and prevents heat-related injuries.

Ask a question about Wrestling and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • acute injuries
  • overuse injuries
  • soft tissue injuries
  • joint injuries
  • neck and spine injuries
  • skin infections
  • dehydration
  • electrolyte imbalance
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • metabolic changes
  • mental health impacts
  • infection risks

Possible long-term side effects

  • chronic overuse injuries
  • long-lasting joint issues
  • potentially severe neck and spine injuries
  • skin infection complications
  • chronic kidney damage
  • cardiovascular issues
  • osteoporosis
  • anemia
  • impaired organ function
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • thyroid dysfunctions
  • chronic mental health conditions
  • body image issues
  • impaired immune response
  • long-term metabolic changes


  • increased muscle strength
  • improved flexibility
  • cardiovascular fitness
  • enhanced focus
  • stress management
  • discipline and self-reliance
  • resilience
  • teamwork and camaraderie

Healthier alternatives

  • proper technique
  • strength training
  • flexibility training
  • adequate rest
  • nutritious diet
  • protective gear
  • mindfulness
  • psychological support
  • safe training practices
  • injury prevention techniques
  • sensible weight management

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Desmond Richard
Published on: 05-03-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Desmond Richard
Published on: 05-03-2024

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