Preventing Boating Injuries
From NRS online
Hopefully you’ve been keeping up
a program of exercise and stretching through the winter.
If so, you’re ready to start boating come spring. If
your winter exercise program has consisted largely of
reaching into the chip bag and operating the remote
control, jumping right into high intensity boating is
asking for what can be debilitating injury.
The result? Anatomy students and physical
therapists help themselves remember the four muscle
groups with an acronym of the first letter in the names
of the muscle groups, “SITS”. As in, the person with a
torn rotator cuff SITS out the action. (Editor’s note:
Speaking from personal experience, a torn rotator cuff
and its consequent pain, surgery and physical therapy is
something you want to avoid. Aside from the physical
pain of a torn rotator cuff, it will scare the hell out
of you to wonder whether you might not ever go boating
So, how do you avoid injury to these
areas? It takes a combination of approaches –
conditioning, warm-up and stretching, use of correct
technique and the right equipment.
You can sign-up at a gym or do
it at home. Most gyms have trainers that can help you
design a program. There are also some excellent books
and Internet resources. The important thing is to “just
do it” on a regular basis. Adopt a balanced program of
exercises that strengthen the muscles in the chest,
arms, shoulders, upper and lower back and abdomen.
Paddling and rowing are excellent conditioning
exercises themselves. When first beginning in the
season, start easy; work your way up to longer sessions.
Warm-Up and Stretching
exercising and paddling, warm-up the muscle groups
you’ll be using. Do this by making the same motions
you’ll be using on the water. Rotate your shoulders
forward and back, twist and lean your torso, move your
body forward and back, etc. Repeat the motions until you
feel the muscles loosen up.
muscles and tendons improves flexibility and elasticity,
helping to prevent injury. Select a range of stretches
that cover all the body areas you use. Stretch easy, you
should feel a good tension but never any pain. Hold each
stretch for 15-20 seconds. Stretch during any breaks
during a day’s paddling and at the end of the day.
Acute and chronic boating injuries caused by
lack of conditioning or over-straining
muscles are primarily in the upper body.
Paddling and rowing are repetitive motions
that can lead to inflammation of joints and
muscles. Boating in turbulent waters can
result in sudden, violent extensions of
joints and muscles, causing dislocations and
tears in tendons and muscles. Wrists,
shoulders and backs are the most common
areas of the body where boaters suffer
Our shoulders are
particularly vulnerable to over extension.
The rotator cuff is the name given to the
four muscle groups and their tendons that
hold the shoulder joint in place. Tears to
and inflammation of these muscles and
tendons can be caused by acute trauma or by
repetitive “wear and tear.”
The Right Equipment
Paddling and rowing require repetitive motions, motions
that can be repeated hundreds of times during a day.
Kayakers sometimes experience pain as a result. Many
find that a bent shaft paddle, which puts their hands
and wrists in a more neutral position, cures this
problem. Additionally, going to a lighter paddle and/or
one with a reduced feather can bring relief to the
muscles and joints in your hand, wrist and arm.
When you’re rowing, usually at least two-thirds of the
oar is outside the oar mount. Lifting that weight every
time you take a stroke can wear you out and lead to
injury. You may find you can use shorter oars. If a
buddy has some, give that a try. You can also go to a
lighter oar, add counterweights to the handle end or
purchase oars with counterweights in the handles.
The bottom line? Take care of your body and your
body will take care of you. The “12-ounce forearm curl”
isn’t sufficient exercise to prepare you for boating.
Stay in shape, use the right technique and equipment –
and you’ll still be boating when you’re old and gray.
Our wish is to “see you on the water”, healthy and
safe, for a long time!
Kayakers are especially vulnerable to shoulder
problems. Avoid a high brace, where the outer
arm is elevated. Keep the upper arm as close to
your body as possible. Also, use a relaxed grip
on your paddle shaft, “white knuckling” the grip
puts undue stress on your forearm and wrist.
When paddling, if the paddle gets caught on a
rock, release it before it jerks your arm out.
All the conditioning in the world won’t save you
if you abuse your body by asking it to do
something it’s not designed to do.