Wrestling is a high-intensity sport that involves lots of rough physical contact. But unlike other full-contact sports, wrestlers don’t strap on bulky shoulder pads, a big helmet, padded pants, gloves, and a mouth guard to keep them safe. Instead, they rely solely on their shoes, wrestling headgear, and wrestling knee pads for protection. Although this kind of gear seems minimal, it is often enough to help prevent the following common injuries and ailments.

  • Cauliflower ear. This condition, in which the outer ear becomes lumpy, swollen, and deformed, results from the strong blows wrestlers tend to receive in that area. Since cauliflower ear can be permanent, it’s critical—and even mandatory at most levels of the sport—that you wear your wrestling headgear for all practices and matches.
  • Sprains and strains. Wrestlers put a ton of stress on their joints and limbs when they execute certain takedown techniques or escape maneuvers. Ankle sprains are particularly prevalent, but you can help guard against these by wearing high-top shoes with a strong support structure.
  • Bruises. If you emerge from a match without any bruises at all, then either you or your opponent weren’t trying very hard. Bruises come about from grappling, sparring, or landing hard on the mat. There’s not much you can do to prevent them on your arms or torso, but wrestling knee pads certainly help keep your knees in good shape.
  • Muscle pulls and tears. Your hamstrings and calves are highly vulnerable to pulls and tears during a match because of the tremendous force exerted on your legs. An effective way to protect yourself is to make sure you stretch thoroughly before stepping onto the mat.
  • Bacterial and fungal infections. Infections are also common among wrestlers due to the potentially unsanitary nature of the mats, locker rooms, and showers. While wrestling headgear keeps bacteria away from your ears, other delicate parts of your body are still exposed. Practicing good hygiene such as washing your hands thoroughly before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth and showering as soon as possible after a match can help you stay healthy.

It’s a bit unreasonable to expect to get through an entire season without a few bumps and bruises, but if you remember to stretch, wear your wrestling headgear, and strap on your wrestling knee pads before each practice or match, you have a great chance of avoiding many of the problems listed above.