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Do You Want to Be a Ninja

Do You Want to Be a Ninja?

by Tara Hackney, PT, DPT, OCS, KTTPLeave a Comment

Who didn’t have a moment in childhood where you wanted to be a ninja? Ninjas are cool, stealthy, and can do things that seem to defy gravity. With the show, American Ninja Warrior on television, the rise of ninja warrior gyms has grown in the past few years. Ninja warrior has become an actual sport, and there are competitions all over America. Ninja warrior combines the skills of gymnastics, running, rock climbing, and weightlifting; in summary, these athletes are incredibly strong, agile, and flexible.

What is a Ninja Warrior Gym?

The basic idea of a ninja warrior is a large obstacle course that competitors try to navigate without slipping or falling. There are usually several stages until you progress to the final event. The obstacles are designed to test human strength, concentration, and endurance limits. Many gyms also function as “normal gyms”, allowing you to exercise or train for competition or fun. Many courses can be adapted for varying ages and skill levels.

Risk of Ninja Warrior

As with any sport, there is always a risk of injury. Movements and skills in Ninja Warrior lend it to seeming more prone to injury and severe injury. In a survey of 160 ninja athletes, 42% had sustained an injury in the past 6 months1 although they did not specify the severity of that injury. From a physical therapist’s standpoint, I would guess that sprains and strains are common injuries. Wrists and ankles appear to be susceptible joints for injury with the climbing, hanging, and landing these ninja athletes have to perform. However, there is minimal data available to confirm this hypothesis.

Other information collected in the survey includes:

Which obstacles lead to most injuries in ninja athletes1

  • Laches
  • Warped Wall
  • Salmon Ladder
  • Bad mat placement
  • Climbing

The causes of the most injuries in ninja athletes1

  • Overuse
  • Obstacle miscalculation
  • Improper form
  • Improper warm-up
  • Fatigue

Younger (18-29 yo) and older (40+ yo) athletes experience the most injuries.

Tips to Train for Ninja Warrior Safely

1. Never skip a warmup

Dynamic warm-ups have been shown to help with injury prevention2. Doing a complete warm up prior to activity is vital to prepare your body- don’t skip it.

2. Don’t train alone

Make sure to have a buddy or a spotter present while training. They can help with setup and ensure if injury occurs, help can arrive quickly.

3. Take the time to make sure your setup is correct

Many of the reported injuries were due to incorrect landing mat placement. When training, ensure landing mats are in the correct place prior to beginning the obstacle.

4. Watch your reps

Try to be in tune with your body to identify when you are becoming fatigued. When we fatigue, we are most likely to alter our mechanics, leading to a greater risk of injury. Fatigue usually occurs at the end of training practice or at the end of the obstacle course. When practicing, it may be necessary to limit the number of repetitions performed to ensure good mechanics and decrease the risk of injury.

Feeling pain trying out a new sport? Come see us!

There is always a risk of injury with any sport, including ninja warrior. If you’re experiencing pain when trying out a new sport, reach out to an Athletico clinician to have your pain or injury assessed for free. Free assessments are available both in-clinic and virtually through our Telehealth platform.

Request a Free Assessment

*Per federal guidelines, beneficiaries of plans such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, VHA and other federally funded plans are not eligible for free assessments.

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. Lee, Nikki. “Infographic Explores Stats behind Injuries in the Sport of Ninja Warrior.” American Ninja Warrior Nation, American Ninja Warrior Nation, 25 Apr. 2019,
2. Woods K, Bishop P, Jones E. Warm-up and stretching in the prevention of muscular injury. Sports Med. 2007;37(12):1089-99. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200737120-00006. PMID: 18027995.

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About the Author:
Tara Hackney, a physical therapist in Marion, IA, enjoys working with all patient types, especially gymnasts, cheerleaders, and dancers. She is the prominent blogger for Athletico's Gymnastic/Cheer Program. With an orthopedic specialization and training in dry needling and Graston technique, Tara hopes to answer your questions about injuries and injury prevention in an easy-to-understand manner. She hopes to ease fears surrounding pain and injuries, address concerns about recovery, and provide tips to prevent injury. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her dog, reading, and watching her nephews play sports.

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