Is Fencing Hard On The Knees?

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Fencing can be an extremely interesting sport to dive into. There aren’t many combat sports like it anymore in this day and age that has continued for as long as it has. But as you could expect with any contact sport, fencing can be hard on many parts of the body.

Is fencing hard on the knees? Knee injuries account for 20% of all knee injuries, according to activesafe.ca. Sprains are the most common type of knee injury for fencers. The majority of fencing injuries typically do not come from swords, but from strained muscles and over-turned ankles.

This can be really relieving for those that are interested in getting into fencing, particular the sabre division. Below, we’ll cover the specifics on how fencing affects your knees, injury statistics and go over the best ways to make sure your body is prepared for the mat to prevent any unwanted injuries.

What Are the Causes of Knee Injuries?

Knee injuries can stem from not having your body properly warmed up before stepping on the mat. Fencing uses a lot of positions that may be seen as unnatural, and you may have to stay in these positions for a certain amount of time. There is a good deal of jumping around during both the training and the fighting.

Learning the techniques takes a lot of time and consistent practice to help your body feel comfortable. It’s not uncommon for a very ambitious beginner to overshoot their steps, or twist their body farther than they had anticipated. You can’t completely stop injuries like this from happening, but there are methods to help suppress the likelihood of the problems from popping up again.

How Can I Prevent Knee Injuries?

There are many ways to help you get your knees limbered up before sparring. Below, we’ll cover just four that can dramatically reduce your knee injuries.

  • Practice your form at home in your free time
  • Get one-on-one help from your instructor regarding your from
  • Stretch your body every day to help make those movements more natural
  • Cross-train in other sports to keep your muscles engaged

You may notice that a good portion of this list focuses on your form. That is because it is imperative to helping you prevent any unwanted injuries when fencing. 

This doesn’t just help knee injuries, but aids in keeping your body in a state where it isn’t as stressed at the movements you are going through. The rest of your body will thank you for taking some time to get the positioning down.

How Would I Treat a Knee Injury?

Time is going to be the main factor when it comes to healing a sprained knee. You don’t have to become inactive from the injury, but make sure the area is well-rested so that you do not cause any more damage. Aside from time, there is a method known as I.C.E that greatly helps when dealing with sprains. 

The method is very simple, and you can remember it by these three points:

  • Ice to reduce the swelling
  • Compress with an elastic bandage
  • Elevate the injured area

Make sure that the injured area is treated immediately, and don’t wait because the sooner you treat the injury, the better.

What Kind of Injuries Are Most Common in Fencing?

If you’re worried about getting seriously hurt with the saber, you’ll be relieved to know that injuries stemming from them are extremely rare. This is due to the blade being extremely flexible and dull, and it absorbs the energy of the thrust when it makes contact.

There are injuries that come from the mat that are all too common, with some of them being:

  • Bruises. While the saber may not be sharp, it may leave small bruises, especially for beginner levels. This may show up on your arms and shoulders, but your hand is more prone to being hit.
  • Blisters and Calluses. This injury stems from holding the handle, and can also be found on your feet from moving around in your shoes often. They aren’t very painful, but the discomfort can impede on your training and performance.
  • “Fencer’s Elbow”. This is a term for when you overuse your muscles frequently. Better known as Tendonitis this is an injury that can last a very long time for fencers. Microscopic tears and inflammation are common in the muscles, and it may take weeks to heal properly. It is also one of the hardest injuries to prevent in fencing
  • Strained Muscles and Ligaments. This injury can encompass your whole body, and it can bring in the same problems as a twisted knee. Back muscles are prone to be strained, as well as the hamstrings from lunging during fencing.

All of these injuries can be easily treated, and they aren’t enough to force you to stop fencing.

Treatment and Prevention

Injuries should be taken care of before stepping on the mat. By that we mean, it's important to keep your body prepared for what injuries you’ll face on the mat. Many of the injuries on the former list can be treated by making sure your body is limbered up, or by having treatments that may help your muscles relax after they’re sore.

It's important to note that your ability to bounce back from some of these injuries will increase over time. Calluses may not be as much of a pain after your skin has gotten stronger in areas that may have previously seen a lot of them.

For conditions like Tendonitis, it’s best to consult your doctor if you believe you have it as it needs a doctor's diagnosis to be treated correctly.

Injury Statistics

Injuries in fencing are far lower than many other combat sports. According to activesafe.ca in the 2008 Olympics, only 2% of fencers sustained injuries that required medical attention. 

The most common area for injuries was below the waist, which makes up for 63% of total injuries in fencing. Sprained ligaments make up 55% of those injuries.

But these occurrences don’t happen very often. In fact, only 3 out of 10,000 fencing matches saw injuries where the fencer had to withdraw from the match. For every 1,000 males, only 7 faced any injury, which is slightly higher than the female average of 5. Keep in mind these are the stats from the national level.

What Are the Risk Factors?

Risks can be estimated by a variety of factors, most notably

  • Which discipline is being learned. Certain disciplines may see higher injuries that may impede on the ability to perform.
  • Gender of the fencer. Females may find themselves 30% more susceptible to injuries than males, according to activesafe.ca
  • Muscular strength. Fencers may find they have a stronger leg, or the front leg muscles are stronger than the same legs back muscles. This is because the front and rear leg do not switch places in fencing.
  • Training on harder surfaces. There are two common types of surfaces that fencing will take place on: concrete or a wooden court surface with vinyl overlays. The injuries sustained on the wooden court are lower than the ones sustained on concrete.
  • Footwear (What type of midsoles?) Almost all of the fencing shoes you come across will have a sole that cushions the heel when lunging, and it will be trial and error for the fencer to find the right sole to help protect their lower leg.

To help you out finding the best fencing shoes for you, we analyzed some of the best in the market in this article. Check it out and take no risks when choosing the right fencing footwear.

  • Broken Blades. Proper inspection from coaches and officials can counter this risk from having an effect on the fencer. Fencing with any kind of broken blade can cause serious injury to all parties involved, and these will never be used to practice or compete with.

Though there may be factors that can certainly bring injuries to the fencer, it’s nowhere near as high as many other contact sports, such as boxing or football. Almost all of the risks can be prevented beforehand with proper inspection and care.

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