Paddling Sports and Repetitive Injuries
Like other sports, injuries are common among all of the paddling sports: kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddle boarding, rowing, dragon boat racing, etc. Because paddling is a whole-body exercise, it requires proper movement technique throughout the entire kinetic chain (hips, back, shoulders, elbows and forearms) to powerfully propel the boat forward.
As the athlete exerts downward force through the paddle and into the water, that same amount of energy then gets transferred back to the athlete’s body. Being equipped with adequate muscle strength, flexibility, and balance is imperative for the prevention of cumulative trauma (aka repetitive injury). This is the most common type of injury in paddling and differs from acute injury.
An acute injury results from a one-time traumatic event (collision or fall), while repetitive injuries occur over an extended period of time. Ultimately, during cumulative repetitive trauma, the body starts breaking down after performing the same movement over-and-over again. In paddling, we are concerned about the stroke volume and the body’s ability to sustain this performance.
Let’s get more specific.
The process responsible for these repetitive injuries is called micro-trauma. Micro-trauma occurs when the body continuously lays down scar tissue (collagen) in an attempt to repair the injured tissues. When we train throughout this healing process, we force our bodies to create an excess amount of scar tissue, which ultimately leads to build up called adhesions .
These adhesions limit mobility, strength, and proper blood flow to the area – causing chronic movement problems. To the athlete, these may only be noticed as the usual aches-and-pains associated with training, but over time will lead to increased muscle tension, improper joint alignment, and the feeling of being abnormally stiff.
When joint and muscle kinetics are improperly functioning, new opportunities for muscle imbalances arise. This means certain muscles will work harder than others; creating additional stress on the joints and causing movement compensations. While these compensations are common in everyday life, in sports, the muscle tissues are unable to effectively transfer the mechanical forces equally, subjecting them to further strain.
Without proper care, this can be a vicious cycle which greatly affects the paddler’s performance. By locating the source of the problem and treating the soft tissue adhesion, chiropractic care can help paddlers maintain their strength, flexibility and ultimately – stay on the water .