Perth Sports Physiotherapy for Common Canoeing Injuries

Canoeing is a sport in which a canoe (lightweight narrow boat pointed at both ends and open on top) is propelled by an individual or a team with a single-bladed paddle. It is a great outdoor recreational activity that has grabbed the attention of many pleasure-seekers around the globe. A survey in 2010 revealed that almost 1.5 million paddlers in Australia engage in this water-based activity at least once in a week. The main form of competitive sport using canoe is canoe racing.

Injuries and Training

Paddling a long, narrow unstable craft in moving water which is often fast-flowing and cold puts athletes at a higher risk of sustaining injuries than athletes in other recreational sports. One recent study shows an overall risk of injury from canoeing is 42% during recreation and 7% during competition, with more than half of all injuries happen during training. Training too much and too often can lead to a wide range of injuries including heat stress and dehydration.

Most Common Injuries Sustained By Paddlers Include:

  • Shoulder and back injuries – A repetitive movement of the upper body while using the paddle puts strain on the shoulder, elbow and lower back, leading to an overuse injury. Common shoulder injuries among paddlers include rotator-cuff tendinitis, humeral head subluxation and shoulder dislocations. Maintaining the same position in the small canoe for long periods makes athletes susceptible to back pain.
  • Chronic muscular pain
  • Sprains – Hyperextension of the wrist during the pushing phase of the stroke in extreme environmental conditions such as high winds and fast-flowing waters makes one susceptible to wrist and forearm injuries. Commonly reported injuries include tenosynovitis of the elbow, and sprains of the forearm and wrist. Novice paddlers move the body incorrectly during the activity, which puts unnecessary strain on the muscles, ligaments, and joints.
  • Dislocations and lacerations
  • In canoe marathons (long distance racing events), one in eight athletes has been reported to develop inflammation of the tendons in the shoulder and forearm.
  • Falling into cold water when not wearing a wet suit can lead to hypothermia, a medical condition that is characterized by subnormal body temperature.

Diagnosis and Treatment

In case of an injury, one should immediately contact the nearest medical facility preferably a physiotherapy center to diagnose the problem and get the right treatment. Minor cuts and abrasions are treated by cleaning the wound and disinfecting it thoroughly before dressing it. Minor sprains and strains can be treated with RICE (rest, ice therapy, compression and elevation). In case of heat stress, an expert at a physiotherapy clinic encourages a sufferer to drink plenty of fluids to normalize the electrolytes’ levels in the blood.

Dislocated shoulders need to be treated urgently in order to reduce the pain and minimize the possible damaging consequences to nerves and ligaments around the rotator cuff muscles. A dislocated shoulder is treated by immobilizing it initially, followed by simple stretching exercises in the supervision of a physiotherapy expert to regain the strength and improve the range of motion in the shoulder. Back pain can be treated by a combination of sports massage and ultrasound treatment.

Consult a physiotherapy expert at Happy Physio for advice. Call (08) 9272 7359 now!