We all get bumps and bruises from Parkour. It’s just “part of the game” as I say. The key is to avoid the big injuries that put you out for more than a day. In 7 years of Parkour I’ve had 4 such injuries, and I present them to you here along with the lessons I learned from them. My hope is that you learn from my mistakes so you can avoid the things I did wrong and ultimately avoid injuries like the ones I experienced.
Injury #1: Bailing on an arm jump.
The Story: I had been doing Parkour for about 6 months, and there was a big arm jump I wanted to do. I knew I was physically ready for the jump, but I also knew I wasn’t mentally ready. So I starred down the jump for about 30 minute psyching myself up until I finally did it. The result? I bailed mid-flight and sprained my ankle. I hobbled home and was out for a couple weeks.
Lesson: Don’t stare down a jump for too long.
Explanation: I wasn’t mentally ready for the jump and having to stare it down for that long should have shown me that. I have a training technique now in which I don’t ever stare down a jump. But for those of you that like looking down jumps (and many do), I recommend setting a time limit. If you stare down a jump for more than X minutes (whatever that time is for you), then walk away and come back tomorrow. There’s no shame in doing a jump on Thursday instead of Wednesday. There is shame in being stupid and getting injured. I know first hand.
Injury #2: Dash vault mishap.
The Story: I had been doing Parkour for almost a year and a half. I was with a friend who was not a Traceur, and I was showing him different vaults and techniques. We were taking and laughing, and I wasn’t in a serious training mood at all. I went to do a dash vault over a rail, I missed the plant, and I fell about 5 feet and landed on my wrist. It was severely sprained, and I couldn’t do push ups or handstand for about 4 months.
Lesson: Approach your training seriously.
Explanation: There are times to joke and laugh, and this is true for Parkour as well. But be careful when you do this and be cognizant of how/why/when because a lack of focus can lead to mistakes that can lead to injuries. I’m positive that if I had had a serious mind frame during my dash attempt then my mistake never would have happened. But I was only half paying attention, and it lead to my error.
Injury #3: Big jump. Landing on my heel.
The Story: By the time I had my third injury I had been doing Parkour for about 4 years. There was an 11 foot drop/jump I really wanted to do. It was just one of those jumps that taunts you, and I had been looking at it for a few months. I climbed up, looked at it, and after about 15 seconds I jumped. I landed a little back on my right heal and spent two weeks doing block squeezes and strap presses for rehab.
Lesson: If you’re not 100% confident, don’t do the jump.
Explanation: Like with my arm jump bail, I was capable of this jump, but the reason I was injured was because I wasn’t 100% confident. That led to me not committing all the way, and instead of rolling immediately upon landing, I didn’t commit fully and I landed a bit flat footed and back. To this day (save for injury #4) I’ve never been injured when I was 100% confident in the move. This injury is a prime example of that. Now I avoid all big(ger) jumps/moves if I am not absolutely, 100% sure. In searching for my signs of confidence I’ve found that if I can’t smile while doing a jump then I’m not ready. That might be just a personal thing for me, but it might be worth trying too.
Injury #4: Deceived by a crash mat.
The Story: My last injury happened in November 2012. I did an 11 foot jump onto a crash mat (a pretty easy jump for me even without a mat). The mat compressed in a weird way and my ankle rolled like it has never rolled before. X-rays were negative, but it may have been better if I had broken it because it would have healed faster. To date it is the worst injury of my life. I spent two weeks on crutches, two weeks limping, three more months without any serious training, and it took 2 years before I considered it 95%.
Lesson: Avoid crash mats.
Explanation: Just do use them or be careful when you do. And don’t take my word for it. Both David Belle and Daniel Ilabaca have also had injuries because of crash mats, and they have both said that they don’t like them (but ask them for more context because I don’t all the details of Daniel’s story exactly and I don’t care to explain David’s). I wasn’t ignorant to this fact at the time of the jump, but I literally just figured it was a fluke for them and crash mats were cool all the time. In my opinion now? They aren’t always cool. The way I look at it, Parkour isn’t meant to be done on squishy foam, and not only can mats move in unexpected ways that concrete can’t (this is what lead to my injury and David’s), the landings on mats are often completely different and can cause your joints to articulate differently because of timing and other things. Please consider this before using a mat, and if you are still absolutely intent on using one (because clearly there are some great times to use them), be extra careful.
From what I have seen, almost all Traceurs get injured at one time or another, but it’s pretty much always a result of something that could have been avoided with the proper mental preparation. My four injuries are examples of that, and although there are many more mental or physical errors that can lead to injuries while doing Parkour, my hope is that now with this blog you can at least eliminate four of them.