Injury & Medical Advice of Archery

ROTATOR CUFF STRAIN

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that surround the shoulder joint and stabilizes the shoulder.

As an archer, every time you draw your bow, you put stress on the rotator cuff. Instinctively, the body wants to draw the bow with the shoulder but our shoulders aren’t designed to support that kind of repetitive load bearing. Injuries to this muscle group are typically the result of repetitive strain and poor shooting mechanics.

Symptoms may include:

  • A dull ache within the shoulder
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Disturbed sleep, especially if you sleep on the injured shoulder
  • Arm weakness
  • Prevention

You can prevent damage and strain to the rotator cuff with proper form. There are several different stances in archery, so you can choose the one you feel most comfortable with, however, you will want to make sure your stance allows the large back muscles to help the smaller arm and rotator cuff muscles when drawing the bow.

Archery is physically demanding and excessive practicing can lead to overuse injuries. If you notice any pain when drawing your bow the best thing to do is give your muscles a break.

If the pain continues, you could try a bow with a lower draw weight. Reducing this weight by even 1lb will make it easier for you to pull back.

TENDONITIS

Tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon. While tendonitis can occur in any of your tendons, archers will most commonly be affected in the shoulders, elbows, and/or wrists. In fact, tendonitis of the elbow is so common in archery, the disorder is also called “Archer’s Elbow”.

Bringing your bow to full draw places a great deal of stress on both your elbows. Typically you will experience pain on the outside of the elbow after shooting, with pain worsening after you straighten your arm and flex the muscles.

Symptoms may include: Sharp pain in the elbow A dull ache, particularly when moving the injured area

  • Tenderness
  • Mild swelling
  • Prevention

Again, the draw weight of your bow, as well as proper form and technique, are huge factors when it comes to this elbow injury.

Be sure your bow has an appropriate draw weight for your strength and skill level.

Strengthen the shoulder and scapular muscles. Weak muscles are a major contributing factor to Archer’s Elbow. The injury occurs when your elbows and wrists are not strong enough to handle the demanding, repetitive movements placed on them while shooting.

STRING SLAP

This injury is really just reserved for those in the world of archery, and if you’re an archer you have undoubtedly earned yourself one of these souvenirs. A string slap injury is caused when the bowstring snaps against the forearm when shooting.

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain, tenderness
  • Bruises, welts
  • Swelling

Prevention

Invest in an armguard! The easiest way to prevent string slap is by wearing an armguard. I can tell you that mine has protected me from this injury many, many times. Maintain a loose grip on the bow, and remember that a death grip is not necessary over-gripping the bow will pull your wrist into the bowstring’s path. Adjust your form. Proper elbow rotation, a wide stance, and holding a straight posture while shooting will help you prevent string slap. Avoid fatigue. Fatigue causes bad posture, and as I just mentioned, improper form can quickly result in a string slap injury. Stance and technique are not always to blame, you may be using a bow with a draw weight that is too heavy. You can either use a lighter bow or build up the muscles in your upper body.

BREAST BRUISES

This is essentially a string slap injury to the breast and undoubtedly the reason the mythological Amazons were said to remove one for the sake of archery. Thankfully, there is no need for you to resort to those kinds of extreme measures! Simply adjusting your form to compensate for your assets and wearing appropriate clothing will work wonders to save you from this unpleasant injury.

 

Again, this is caused when the bowstring snaps against the chest when shooting.

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain, tenderness
  • Bruises, welts
  • Swelling

 

Prevention

Avoidance again comes back to proper stance and technique. Your posture must offer the bowstring enough clearance upon release.

Also, opting for a supportive sports bra that will help protect your ‘ladies’ is a great idea. Look for a bra with a compressive fit that will offer maximum support for the activity. Also avoid bulky, loose-fitting clothing and choose something snug that will not catch the string on release.

BLISTERS ON THE FINGERS

Blisters on the fingertips can form when the skin has been damaged by friction or rubbing against the bowstring.

This is caused by excessive contact between the fingertips and the bowstring on release. Elevating the elbow of your drawing arm too high can cause the index finger to hook deeper and remain on the string slightly longer after the point of release.

Symptoms may include:

  • Blisters
  • Pain, tenderness

Prevention

Avoid using excessive finger tension when hooking the bowstring. Also, be sure you are shooting with your fingers on the proper place on the string.

If your fingers haven’t completely hardened up with callouses and you are still experiencing pain and tenderness on your fingertips, a good pair of archery gloves may be a worthwhile purchase as they will protect your fingers during shooting.