Kayak Injuries

Kayak Injuries
Kayaking can be a demanding water sport that occasionally causes minor injuries such as sprains, tendinitis, muscular pain and bruises. These injuries can be caused by a variety of problems in and out of the water. The more common kayaking injuries like sprained shoulders and wrists and lower back pain are typically caused by overuse and strain due to repetitious movements.

Shoulder Injuries

Shoulder injuries can befall kayakers due to repeated paddling motion, leading to overuse and strain. Shoulder injuries can also happen because of improper technique. Kayakers should do stretching exercises and muscle conditioning, particularly balanced shoulder development. For balanced shoulder development, kayakers should try backward paddling as a training technique. For upper body strength, exercises like lat pulls and chest press will help improve core muscles and kayaking movements like sweep strokes, high and low braces, forward strokes, reverse strokes and rolls. For your shoulders, weightlifting exercises that focuses on rotator cuff isolation will help maintain strength as well as your range of motion to protect against damage. Stretches such as the arm-up rotator stretch and reaching-up shoulder stretch are beneficial in preventing and rehabilitating shoulder injuries. Do not forget to warmup and cooldown before and after each session as this helps alleviate stress and soothe strained muscles.

Wrist Injuries

Kayakers may also develop wrist injuries related to the constant movements in paddling. The wrists are vulnerable to strains and even conditions like tendinitis due to repeated movement or intensity of the kayaker's wrist flexion and extension. This is especially true when alternating the blades in the water. Tendinitis is swelling or inflammation of the tendons, which causes sensations of pain and tenderness. To help avoid straining your wrists, always observe proper hand and wrist placement when paddling to decrease stress on your wrist. This is done by positioning hands on the shaft of the paddle with both hands having equal hand-to-blade distance. Using a light and unfeathered paddle is also advisable as it lessens the weight on wrists. Finally, wearing protective gloves that stabilize the wrists can also aid in preventing injuries.

Back Injuries

Injuries to the lower back can often force kayakers to take prolonged breaks before going back to the sport. This injury is characterized by pain, discomfort and back stiffness which can be due to improper paddling technique or poor posture in the kayak. An effective way to prevent lower back pain is to engage in strengthening exercises and muscle conditioning to help improve posture and correct any muscular imbalance. Pullovers and one-arm rows are effective for strengthening your back, which helps to improve kayaking motions like sculling draws, high braces, rolls and bow rudder. Stretching is also helpful to relieve muscle stress. An effective and simple lower back flexibility training is the erector spinae stretch. This is done by lying on your back and pulling both knees to your chest. Next, lift both foot toward the ceiling, then grab your feet and press both knees toward the floor. When kayaking, always observe proper posture, such as sitting up straight and leaning slightly forward. Another thing you can do to prevent back injuries is to find a kayak seat that fits your back. For example, if you have a hard seat, replace it with a back-band or carve mini-cell foam. Also, try a less load-bearing paddle like a foam core or bent shaft. Changing the angle of your paddle shaft might also help, such as a more touring or power stroke angle to lessen back strain.

Article Written By Rona Aquino

Rona Aquino began writing professionally in 2008. As an avid marathon runner and outdoor enthusiast, she writes on topics of running, fitness and outdoor recreation for various publications. Aquino holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications and English from the University of Maryland College Park.

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