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10 Most Common Archery Injuries & How To Avoid Them

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Tim Rhodes

Archery is considered generally safe; however, similar to other sports, accidents do happen, causing injuries to shoulders, arms, and wrist.

Different muscle groups are involved in holding the bow, pulling the string, and releasing the arrow.

Poor technique, extended training, and sometimes carelessness often result in injuries.

That’s why you, as an archer, should get appropriate training first and take safety courses.

Also, one should do daily exercise and eat a balanced diet.

Say no to junk foods and staying out too late at night to party or have a drinking session.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a newbie or a pro; read every day to boost your knowledge and skills.

10 Most Common Archery Injuries And How To Avoid Them

Read this whole article, and you’ll know the ten most common archery injuries and how you can avoid them.

1. Strain on the Rotator Cuff

Pulling the string may put stress on the rotator cuff.

Usually, the pulling action puts stress on the wrist and elbow.

However, because you want to pull the string as far as you can, it causes the stress to transfer to the shoulder.

This excessive and repetitive stress may result in arm weakness, sleeplessness, shoulder numbness, and restricted motion.

Practice proper stance to prevent stress on the rotator cuff.

Perhaps, you’re a newbie in this archery field and don’t know much about proper mechanics.

Let’s Move Schools Outside said you should do the following to develop a proper stance:

Measure your shoulder width, stand up straight, and position each foot to match the shoulder width.

Divide your weight equally to each foot, so you don’t lean forward or backward.

After positioning yourself properly, there are four basic stances to adapt.

In the square stance, both feet are perpendicular to your body.

In the open stance, the foot nearest to the target is slightly pointing forward, usually 25-30 degrees.

In the natural stance, both feet are slightly pointing toward the target, about 25-30 degrees.

In the closed stance, the foot farthest to the target is slightly pointing backward, about 25-30 degrees.

Try all the stances and choose a technique that you feel you’re most comfortable with.

Most professional archers, however, use the square stance.

Do proper and regular exercise.

You need to build strength and stamina to do archery.

Practice with a bow with lower draw weight, then slowly transition to a heavier bow.

Another great way to start is to get an archery trainer like the DryGuy Fire Pro Archery Trainer.

It provides up to 60lbs of adjustable resistance to suit archers of any skill level.

2. Tendinitis – Tendon Inflammation on Shoulders, Elbows, and Wrists

It’s also called the “archer’s elbow” because it commonly occurs in the elbow area.

The wrists and shoulders can also have the same disorder.

The full draw gives the greatest stress, feeling pain after arrow release.

Then subsequent pains when flexing and straightening the arm.

You’ll observe the following symptoms in affected areas; mild swelling, tenderness, numbness, sharp and jolting pain.

To prevent tendinitis, practice proper bow stance, strengthen your arm through regular exercise, and rest properly between practice sessions.

Remember to rest.

You tend to overexert yourself during practice, continuing even if you’re already feeling tired.

Either you’re too excited or want to badly prepare for the next tournament.

Too much practice may do more harm than good.

Call doctors for help in case of severe pain.

3. String Slap (Arms)

You can assume you’re not a real archer if you have not experienced a string slap.

However, don’t go intentionally slapping your arm hard with a bowstring.

The pain is no joke.

String slap will result in pain, bruise, and swelling.

To prevent string slap, invest in a decent arm guard.

The gear has saved me from an injury many times, and expect that it will save you too.

Though archery is one of the world’s safest sport, accidents may still happen.

And according to Archery Edge, one of the accidents is the bowstring slapping your forearm.

A forearm guard won’t only protect your arm but will also prevent clothing sleeves from getting in your way.

A proper bow stance will also prevent a string slap.

Refrain from overpulling the string because it’s not necessary.

Don’t hold the bow too tight to the point that string is too close to your arm.

Relax and try to move it farther away.

Consider adjusting the brace height; it might be too short.

Brace height is the distance between the nocking point and arrow rest.

If the brace height is too short, remove the string, twist to tighten, and install it again.

Be patient because it may take several tries before you get the right brace height.

Don’t do archery when you’re feeling stress, fatigue, or furious.

Such conditions can result in bad posture, leading to the incident.

When you’re furious, you’ve got the tendency to forcefully do everything, including overpulling the string.

4. String Slap (Chest)

Opponents are catching up, and so you’re so focused on hitting the bullseye.

But, upon releasing the string, it hit your breast, and the released arrow went out of focus.

It was painful physically because the string slapped your breast.

Also painful mentally because your opponent went ahead and won in the end.

String slapping to the breast may cause pain, bruise, and swelling.

There was speculation that right-handed Amazonians intentionally cut off their left breasts to avoid the associated string slap injury.

It seemed a cruel deed, but it may have allowed them to be better archers.

If you’re a lean man, you can just let go of this issue.

String striking your chest is unlikely.

However, ladies and bodybuilders might experience problems.

Don’t worry; proper posture will prevent string slapping to the breast.

Proper archery posture creates enough clearance between the string and the breast.

Get a breast guard.

It should be decent quality and a snug fit because it would be embarrassing to see the breast guard caught by the string and fly after the arrow.

My Archery Corner and I insist you should get a chest guard – it means the same as breast guard.

Whether you’re a newbie or a professional who has the feeling that your chest will get in your way, you must get a chest guard.

If you’re confident with your skill, you should get a chest guard too.

Accidents happen, and you don’t know when it is.

The raging bowstring striking your chest is not a trivial matter.

What type of chest guard is right for you?

If you’re a right-handed archer, you must get a left chest guard because you pull the string with the right hand, and the string comes in close contact with the left chest.

Likewise, a left-handed archer should get the right chest guard.

5. Finger Blisters (Due to Repeated String Pulls)

Whenever you pull, the string rubs hard against your fingers.

Because you need to shoot repeatedly, it will cause blisters on your fingers.

Positioning your elbow too high when pulling the string adds more stress to the index finger.

It stays hooked deeper and longer before the point of release.

The repeated string may cause blisters, pain, and swelling.

To prevent blistered fingers, practice, and practice more!

If you’re just starting with archery, finger blistering will occur often.

It will happen less as you become a more experienced archer.

Because your finger is feeling pain, the tissues will produce thicker and harder skin, allowing you to draw the bow repeatedly with ease.

However, the continuous practice may not harden your finger skin hard enough; instead, it might end up in nerve damage, preventing you from pursuing archery further.

Consider getting a pair of archery gloves.

It’ll prevent blistering and pain but may not allow the skin in your fingers to harden.

It’s fine; more importantly, you can hit the bullseye nice and easy.

Besides, most archers use some sort of finger protection.

Archery gloves are special gloves for archery.

It’s usually made of soft, thin leather that has a nice comfortable feel.

This type of glove may only cover the three middle fingers in contrast with regular gloves.

The glove fingertips have thick leather for you to grab and release the string comfortably, without causing pain and blister.

If you forget or just don’t want to, a thick working glove may do, although it might not be as comfortable as archery gloves.

Refrain from using a thin cloth and rubber gloves as they have little to no protection at all.

Getting a finger guard or the no-glove finger saver is another option.

It’s a small round wood or plastic wrapped around the string.

You’re going to hold the guard instead of the string, thus saving your fingers from injuries.

However, many professional archers don’t want this, including me.

Though small and light, finger guards add weight and air friction to the bowstring, thus reducing accuracy and range.

You can also look into finger tabs.

Unlike the common gloves and archery gloves, finger tabs are just a piece of leather made to cover the three fingers used for shooting.

You may need to align the leather every time you shoot, which can be annoying, especially during fast-paced events.

If you’re using a compound bow, then consider a release aid.

The release aid helps keep consistency and accuracy.

And more importantly, it protects your fingers.

Instead of holding with your fingers, the release aid holds the string and the arrow; then, you let go of the arrow by pressing the release aid.

It’s way more comfortable than pulling the bowstring with bare hands.

You shouldn’t use finger tabs or archery gloves because the two are for recurve bows.

Release aid has three distinct types, index trigger, back release, and thumb trigger.

Choose the type that is right for you by buying or borrowing from a friend.

6. Improper Handling of Broadhead Arrows Causing Lacerations, Punctures, and Tears

This is not an injury you usually get by drawing and shooting an arrow.

Instead, you get this due to carelessness and improper handling, especially of broadhead arrows.

Broadheads have legality issues, so unless you’re a wildlife hunter, which is also not legal, you won’t hurt your hands with broadheads.

However, bullethead arrows may also hurt the careless you.

How can you prevent hurting yourself with arrowheads?

Use bullethead and narrow tip arrows instead.

Blunt arrows will be your best bet, although you won’t see the blunt points stay on the bullseye.

Broadhead and narrow tip, if mishandled, will cause swelling, bruises, welt, pain, tenderness, hand lacerations, and punctures.

Familiarize yourself with different arrow tips, so you know how to handle each item properly.

Bullet type– these resemble bullets, common for archery.

Narrow tip – Tips sleeker than bullet heads.

Broadhead – have sharp wings, the most dangerous arrow tip.

The wings are so sharp that even the slightest touch will cause wounds.

Blunt points – So far, the safest; it won’t cause any harm unless you intentionally hammer it to your arm.

It’s typical for animal hunting games where only the arrow impact needs to bring down the target.

Use thick gloves and the right tools, like a wrench, when assembling and disassembling arrows.

Get an excellent quiver to store all the arrows properly.

According to Bow Hunter, a quiver is an essential piece of equipment for archers, from beginners to professionals.

Not just for safety but also efficiency.

It keeps your arrows in one place, and all you need to do is to get, aim, and shoot.

You may opt not to get a quiver and just let your arrows lying on the ground.

However, no one is doing that.

And you don’t want to be the first.

Buy arrow covers as well.

Accidents happen, and you must be prepared for them.

While dressing animals killed by broadhead, be careful as sharp edges may remain inside the animal.

7. RSI Due to Excessive Practice Duration

Practice all day long, and you may end up with repetitive strain injuries.

RSI involves swelling and pain in muscles, particularly on the wrist, arm, and shoulder.

In worse cases, pain and numbness may reach other body parts.

Repetitive strain injuries include cramping, weakness, numbness, tingling, stiffness, throbbing, pain, and tenderness.

There is no better way of prevention than taking a break.

No matter what sport you do, it will cause strain when done for prolonged periods.

Even sitting all day will cause hip numbness.

If you’re new to this sport, taking 30 minutes to one-hour sessions a day is fine.

Allow yourself to get used to it slowly.

As they say, “slowly but surely.”

Even if you’re a professional archer, overexerting will cause you bodily pain.

Have a plan, do other things, and go to your regular day job.

Go to the gym to build muscles and stamina.

Eat a balanced diet.

You need the right kind of fuel to ramp up your hobby.

Lastly, choose the right bow.

Don’t be tempted to get a nice bow just because you see your peers using such.

It may not be right for you.

Whether it’s a recurve or compound bow.

Hold and feel if you can handle it comfortably.

Go to the next choice, if not.

If you’re a beginner, start with a recurve bow, the Long Bow Shop said.

It’s readily available and is quite easy to use.

8. Shoulder Impingement Syndrome Due to Overhead Shoulder Activity

Your everyday routine is to work without the need to raise your arms above your shoulders.

But, when you go into a sport like archery, you’ll have to raise an arm above, not once, not twice, but every time you draw.

After a certain period, you’re unable to move the arm with ease.

The injury is called shoulder impingement syndrome, characterized by limited arm movement range, discomfort while sleeping, and shoulder and arm pain.

Don’t overexert yourself to prevent shoulder impingement syndrome.

When you’re new to something, you tend to force your body too much to catch up with peers.

You want to shoot like a champion even if you had just started yesterday.

Impress the beautiful girl next to you, or you’re just too obsessed with the ins and out of archery.

Observe the proper stance.

Doing it the proper way will prevent many archery related problems, including shoulder pain.

Do regular exercise to build muscles and stamina.

Please keep in mind to do a workout moderately at first, then gradually increase the difficulty.

Take a slow but smooth ride.

Apply ice to the affected area and seek medication if symptoms persist.

9. The Frozen Shoulder or Adhesive Capsulitis

According to MayoClinic, adhesive capsulitis may last for one to three years.

As the name suggests, the injury is characterized by stiffness and pain of shoulder joints.

You may move your shoulder freely, but the excruciating pain will hinder you.

Technically, adhesive capsulitis occurs when connective tissues encapsulating ligaments and tendons become thick and tight, restricting movement.

Age 40+, especially women, are at higher risk of developing a frozen shoulder.

But, don’t let the data stop you.

However, if you’ve been from an injury that restricts shoulder movement, consider consulting with a physical therapist before going into archery.

Frozen shoulder has slow progress and has three stages.

Freezing stage– shoulder movement and range of motion become limited and painful.

Frozen stage– The pain may start to vanish but moving the shoulder is more difficult, but actually, your shoulder begins to improve.

Thawing stage– you can move your shoulder and arm more freely.

Do regular but moderate exercise to prevent and cure any existing syndrome.

Seek medical help if symptoms persist.

The doctor may recommend you take injected medications.

In the worst-case scenarios, you may need to have surgery.

I’ll keep repeating myself so you don’t have to undergo such problems that may hinder you from becoming an archery champion.

Do archery in moderation at first, then increase the hardness level gradually.

The same is true for exercise.

Lastly, eat a balanced diet and get enough sleep.

Say no to alcohol and overnight stay in nightclubs.

You’re better than that; archery is more important.

10. Bone Spur – Smooth Bone Outgrowth in Between Joints

A bone spur is not something that’s immediately evident.

It develops over time.

You won’t know unless you have an X-ray scan for a different purpose.

Or, in the worst cases, those afflicted may experience symptoms like pain and loss of motion.

Do bone spurs have something to do with archery?

Yes!

Because bone spurs reduce the space between joints, shoulder movement causes the tendons to rub against each other, resulting in tendinitis.

You, as an archer, may develop bone spurs in the neck and shoulder area.

Drawing arrows not only put stress on the shoulder but on the neck area too.

So, in the end, you’ll have difficulty moving your shoulder and turning your head.

According to Cleveland Clinic, osteoarthritis often gives birth to bone spurs.

Through aging, cartilage breaks down, resulting in swelling, pain, and movement difficulties.

Bone spurs develop in reaction to this aging process.

Bone spurs may cause rotator cuff tears, weakness, numbness, shoulder loss of motion, swelling, and pain.

Although bone spurs are part of the aging process, you can prevent it through regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep.

Take short breaks during a long archer session.

Whenever possible, apply ice to the area experiencing stress.

See your doctor if symptoms persist.

He may recommend you to take pain relievers such as naproxen, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen.

A word of advice, take pain relievers with caution.

You shouldn’t take it if you have other pre-existing conditions such as heart problems.

Likewise, taking too many pain relievers can hurt your kidney and liver.

Final Thoughts

If you’re new to this sport, take it nice and slow and gradually increase your effort as you progress.

Practicing appropriate archery posture will take you a long way.

It won’t only prevent injuries but will also make your skill progress faster.

Get a decent set of equipment right before pursuing archery.

Right equipment won’t only give you a head start but also help you prevent common injuries.

Prevention is better than cure, so do regular exercise, eat a healthy diet, and get adequate sleep.

The three work in synergy.

Seek early treatment whenever symptoms show because prompt treatment is better than sorry.

Practice and more practice, and you’ll become a pro archer before you know it.

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