How Dangerous Is Fencing?
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Fencing is a competitive sport that combines martial arts and swordsmanship, but is it more dangerous than it looks?
The object of fencing is to jab your opponent with a sharp tipped weapon. Most people would not willingly walk into a situation where they would be stabbed with a sword – no matter how small the sword is.
So, how dangerous is fencing? Honestly, fencing has rather low injury rates when compared to other contact sports. Most injuries are sprains and strains.
There are three ways to make sure that you are as safe as possible during your fencing matches – wear proper protective gear, keep yourself in good physical shape, and use proper techniques during matches.
In this article, we will discuss the 5 most common fencing injuries as well as three tips that will make sure your risk of injury is as low as it can possibly be during your fencing matches.
The 5 Most Common Fencing Injuries
Fencing injuries usually involve bodily strains and sprains because of the high speed and acceleration of movement over time. However, it is not nearly as dangerous as other combat sports.
At the national level, there are 7.7 injuries for every 1,000 males and 5 injuries for every 1,000 females. Only 3 injuries for every 10,000 are severe enough to require the fencer to remove himself or herself from the match.
If you compare this to almost any other sport, you can consider fencing to be safer than most other sports.
The 5 most common fencing injuries are:
- Bruises – Bruises are commonly found on the fingers, front legs, hands, and wrists of fencers.
- Blisters and Calluses – Blisters and calluses tend to form on the weapon hand as you use your weapon more often.
- Fencer’s Elbow – Fencer’s Elbow is the term used to describe tendonitis within the elbow of a fencer. It usually forms in the elbow of the weapon-holding arm, and it is caused by overuse of the elbow.
- Strained Muscles and Ligaments – The most strained muscles and ligaments on a fencer’s body are the hamstrings. The shoulders and neck are the other body parts that need careful consideration when fencing.
- Twisted Knees and Ankles – The jumping that is included in fencing matches can sometimes result in twisted knees and ankles, although this is the least common injury of the five.
Some tips for dealing with these common injuries include:
- Practice! The more you practice your form, the better your body will be able to move and prevent injury.
- Treat calluses with pumice stones if they become bothersome.
- Prevent blisters by making sure your equipment is always dry and covering them with bandages as soon as you notice them.
- Always warm up thoroughly. Always.
- Use cross training to improve your form to prevent sprains and strains.
3 Fencing Safety Tips
#1 – Wear Proper Protective Gear
Fencing gear has gone through many changes and upgrades over the years. Many of the changes were made as a result of injuries caused because of faulty or inadequate gear.
For instance, when Vladimir Smirnov died during the 1982 Fencing World Championships in Rome, kevlar was added to most pieces of top level fencing uniforms.
Most basic level fencing protective equipment is made of tough cotton and nylon and consists of the following pieces:
- Jacket – The fencing jacket is form-fitting and includes a strap that passes between the legs to make sure the jacket stays firmly in place.
- Plastron – This piece is an underarm protector that is worn underneath the jacket.
- Glove – The fencing glove is made to improve grip, protect the hand, and prevent blades from going up into the sleeve.
Take a look on the full post about fencing gloves here.
- Breeches – Fencing breeches are made to overlap the jacket for extra protection, and they end just below the knee.
- Socks – Fencing socks are made long enough to cover the entire knee; some even cover a large part of the thigh.
- Shoes – Fencing shoes are made with flat, reinforced soles that help prevent wear from lunging.
- Mask – The fencing mask is designed to protect the neck along with the face, so it includes a bib.
- Chest protector – This piece is normally worn by females and is made of plastic, but males will sometimes wear one. They are also worn by fencing instructors for extra protection.
- Lamé – This layer of electrically conductive material is used in foil and saber fencing to cover the target areas and make it easier to see if a hit has been felled in the target area.
- Sleeve – Fencing instructors and masters wear this piece of equipment as an extra layer of protection on their fencing arm and/or leg.
As you can see, fencing protective equipment is thorough and makes sure to protect all vulnerable parts of the body while still allowing enough movement to properly fight during matches.
#2 – Keep Yourself in Good Physical Shape
Keeping yourself in good physical shape is important for making sure that your body is prepared for the physical requirements of fencing matches. For fencing, you must develop your speed, strength, and flexibility.
Practicing concentric motion, eccentric motion, and plyometrics is perfect for preparing the body for fencing.
Concentric and Eccentric Motion
Concentric and eccentric motion are the two movements that make up all exercise. Concentric motion shortens the muscle as it acts against a resistant force while eccentric motion lengthens the muscle to produce force. The two motions work together to strengthen muscles.
If you consider a bicep curl, the concentric motion happens as the bicep is tightened during the lifting phase. The eccentric motion happens as the hand is lowered and the bicep loosens.
Plyometrics is a workout that uses jumping elements to heighten the workout. The exercises focus on good form, which is very beneficial for fencing. Exercises can include plyometric push-ups, squat thrusters, and various lunges and thrusts.
#3 – Use Proper Techniques During Matches
In order to prevent injury to your body caused by bad form, it is important to practice and master the moves that are required to perform well during fencing matches.
The three main movements in fencing are:
- The Lunge – This is the basic attacking move. You stretch your sword arm out fully while moving your front leg forward and keeping your back stationary.
- The Parry – This is the basic defense action. You only move your sword during this action while keeping your arm as straight as you can.
- The Riposte – This is the basic counterattack. It is the attack performed by the fencer after he or she has blocked an opponent with a parry.
Additionally, there are proper fencing stances to master, and four types of fencing attacks – high outside, low outside, high inside, and low inside. Making sure that you understand these motions and perform them properly will lessen your chance of injury.
Fencing is a relatively safe combat sport that becomes even safer as you perfect your form and technique. Remembering to always wear full protective gear, keep your body prepared with exercise, and practice your technique will make sure that you are the safest you can be while fencing.
If you are injured, however, it is extremely important to make sure that you are fully healed before entering a fencing match. Attempting a match with a half-healed injury will only result in more pain and can even make the injury worse or even permanent.
Preparation and precaution are your best friends when it comes to keeping yourself safe while fencing.