Is Greco-Roman Wrestling Dangerous?

Greco Roman wrestling injuries and dangers

Greco-Roman wrestling is equally dangerous to freestyle wrestling and more dangerous than folkstyle. The prevailing danger of Greco-Roman wrestling is the possibility of athletes injuring themselves during competition. Common areas for wrestling injuries include ears, knees, hands, wrists, shoulders, elbows, and ribs. 

This article will explore what makes Greco-Roman wrestling dangerous, including explanations of the rules and typical wrestling moves that make this so.

We’ll also cover the most common wrestling injuries according to global studies, and we’ve provided tips in wrestling safety. After all, competitive sports, in general, have their risks of injury and wrestling is no exception. 

Most Common Greco-Roman Wrestling Injuries

Physio4Fight, a physiotherapy blog for martial arts and athletics, details some of the most common injuries that wrestlers suffer. 

These injuries include:

  • Cauliflower ear
  • Concussions
  • Bruises
  • Scrapes
  • Cuts
  • Dislocations

Cauliflower ear is an outer ear deformity brought on by severe damage to the ear. Wrestlers often suffer significant bruising and swelling on the ear during training or matches.

A doctor must drain and wrap the ear to ensure it retains shape and heals. Of course, this can often be avoided with the simple use of protective headgear

Greco-Roman Wrestling Injury Studies

Turkish Injury Study

According to a paper in the Turkish Journal of Sport and Exercise, ear injuries are the most common injury for a Greco-Roman wrestler. The research team spent months assessing 200 volunteer wrestlers at national and international events in Turkey and Kyrgyzstan before concluding that Cauliflower Ear and other ear injuries are ubiquitous among Greco-Roman wrestlers.

The other parts of the body where frequent injuries occur include knees, hands, wrists, shoulders, elbows, ribs, waist, ankles, and neck. Around 69 percent of the Greco-Roman wrestlers in the study had an ear injury, while slightly over 50 percent sustained knee damage.

Only 12 percent of the Greco-Roman wrestlers in the study did not sustain any injuries during the period of monitoring. 

One fact from the paper that may surprise wrestling enthusiasts: A vast majority of the injuries tracked by this study occurred during training, not matches. While the study is not representative of every Greco-Roman wrestler worldwide, it suggests that one or more injuries are common among these athletes. 

2006 U.S. National Tournament – Comparison of Wrestling Injuries

A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports analyzed wrestling injuries during the 2006 U.S. National Tournament. E.E. Yard and R.D. Comstock attempted to compare the epidemiology of injuries during Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling.

In general, the study suggests Greco-Roman wrestling may be slightly safer than Freestyle wrestling; however, the differing total injury tallies from the two studies suggest that wrestlers in the Turkish study did not take proper precautions during their training sessions.

You would also have to take a look at the severity of the injury to truly judge which wrestling style is more dangerous. 

The Freestyle wrestling tournament resulted in 83 injuries, while 53 Greco-Roman wrestlers were hurt during the championships. Freestyle wrestling had a rate of injury per 1000 of 7.0, with Greco-Roman at 4.6.

Their research also showed that Greco-Roman wrestlers had more frequent elbow, head, face, and neck injuries. Concussions were also more frequent in this form of wrestling.

Ultimately, it was concluded that wrestling may not be as dangerous as the Turkish research suggested. Only 4.6 percent of the 3000 wrestlers at the U.S. National tournament sustained an injury.

Is Greco-Roman Wrestling More Dangerous Than Folkstyle Wrestling?

Though freestyle wrestling might be just as dangerous as Greco Roman, I think it is safe to say that folkstyle wrestling is safer than both Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling.

Folkstyle wrestling has stricter rules and has eliminated more of the dangerous takedowns commonly found in Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling. 

For example, a suplex is not allowed in folkstyle wrestling but is very common in the other styles. The reason folkstyle wrestling is less dangerous than Greco-Roman wrestling is that it was created for American middle schools, high schools, and Colleges. 

So naturally, they are going to try and make this sport a little bit safer for their students. This is to not only protect the kids but also to help get their parents on board as well. Of course, even folkstyle wrestling can be dangerous just like many other school sports. 

At the end of the day, you can not avoid the risk of injury completely in the world of competitive sports. But if you or your child is interested in wrestling and want to pick the safest style, then going with folkstyle wrestling is probably your best bet. 

Tips for Preventing Wrestling Injuries In Greco-Roman Wrestling

Any up-and-coming wrestler wants to stay healthy for as long as possible. Being fit means continuing to train and improve your skills while having the chance to play in more matches.

Below are a few strategies you can use to prevent a few common wrestling injuries, per the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center HealthBeat.

  • Train extensively during the preseason. Put in the time to improve your cardio and strength in the off-season, as you will arrive at your first practice in excellent shape. Improve your leg strength and flexibility, as that can help you avoid knee and ankle injuries.
  • Maintain healthy habits. Eat and drink healthy throughout the year, especially during preseason training and competitions.
  • Always wear headgear. Never take off your headgear when you are wrestling, even if you are sparring with a friend during a training session. Headgear and mouthguards mitigate or prevent head, ear, tongue, and tooth injuries.
  • Use braces and pads. Pads or braces on your ankles, knees, and elbows can minimize any damage to those parts of your body during wrestling training sessions and matches.

Rothman Orthopaedics also recommends that wrestlers focus on shoulder strength and flexibility training. Proper warm-up before training and competition also helps to avoid injuries to your shoulder due to holds or arm twists.

A proper warm-up also helps to prevent ankle injuries. If a wrestler does suffer an ankle sprain, they must rest and allow the ligaments to fully heal before participating in another training session or match.

Quality Wrestling Gear for Safe Training and Competition

Here’s some of the best wrestling gear you can buy from

  • Matman Adult Wrestling Headgear: Headgear is one of the essential accessories you need when wrestling. This affordable option is made from Neoprene, is adjustable, and comes in six different colors. This is the headgear that I also use when rolling in BJJ because it has a little bit of padding. 
  • Cliff Keen Fusion headgear: Not the cheapest headgear but it is high quality and will last a long time. 
  • Sisu Aero Wrestling Mouthguard: One of the biggest mistakes wrestlers make is not wearing a mouthguard. Mouth and teeth injuries are also one of the most common in wrestling and many can be avoided. Mouth guards also help protect against other injuries as well. 
  • Cliff Keen Knee Pads: These are also worthwhile investments, as they can help you reduce cuts, scrapes, bruises, and long-term damage to your knees.

Final Thoughts

Greco-Roman wrestling can be a dangerous sport, given moves such as throws and suplexes require intense body motions. Both aggressors and receivers of these moves can suffer injuries to their upper and lower bodies.

There’s no evidence to suggest Greco-Roman wrestling is significantly more or less dangerous than Freestyle wrestling. Even though Greco-Roman competition does not permit attacking an opponent’s lower body, knee and ankle injuries do still occur.

Wrestlers can take precautions to prevent injuries or mitigate their severeness. Headgear, mouthguards, and padding can protect your body and reduce recovery time between games.

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