Preventing Paddle Boarding Injuries

These simple, but effective tips should keep you pain free on your SUP for years. 

Let's go through them.

As with any sport that involves repetitious motions, paddling on SUP can cause injuries if you don’t warm up properly, use poor form, the wrong sized paddle or paddle during dangerous conditions.

In this blog post, we are going to focus on overuse injuries. The most common overuse injuries that we see occur are in the shoulders, elbows, and lower back.  Following are some tips on how to prevent them and mitigate them if they do occur.

 

Warm Up

Before you start your paddle, it’s a good idea to make sure that you have gotten adequate blood flow to all your major muscle groups.  We like this dynamic, full body warmup from Men’s Journal. 

We then follow it up by foam rolling our major muscle groups with specific attention paid to the shoulders, lower back, forearms, and biceps.  A good foam roller is inexpensive but invaluable for rolling out those “trigger points” that can become enflamed and may lead to more serious injuries.

paddle boarding

Shoulders

Roughly 33% of repetitive use SUP injuries occur in the shoulders.  One thing to focus on while paddling that will reduce your risk of an injury is to keep your elbow below shoulder height on the arm that is gripping the top of the paddle and keep your top hand below eye height. 

Focus on leaning forward and using your body weight to help you push the paddle through the water. You will also want to make sure that your paddle isn’t too long for you.

If you are suffering from shoulder impingement, try a paddle that is an inch or two shorter.  Choosing a board with less drag and a paddle with a smaller blade will also help in this regard. 

inflatable paddle boarding

Lower Back 

Back issues make up less than half of the percentage of shoulder injuries at 14%. Once again, you will want to make sure that your paddle is sized right, if you adjust it to be too short to protect your shoulders, it could lead to lower back pain.

The best way to size your paddle is to stand up straight and reach up with one arm.  Don’t stretch the arm, just reach up comfortably and let the handle nestle in your palm.  When paddling be sure to hinge from the hips by pushing your glutes back while rotating your torso and focus on keeping your spine straight.  

 glide paddle boards

Elbows 

To prevent “paddler’s elbow”, make sure that you maintain a light grip on the paddle as a tight grip will fatigue your forearm muscles quickly.  Use the hip hinge mentioned above to extend your paddle stretch as opposed to overextending your elbow and overstretching your arms.

A bent shaft paddle is a good option as it will put your wrists in a neutral position which will, in turn, keep your elbows in a more neutral position. The bent shaft tends to lead to less strain and less soft tissue irritation.  Should you develop elbow pain, take some time off from paddling and focus on using a foam roller on your forearms as well as your biceps. 

There are two trigger points on each side of your upper back about 3-4 inches below your trapezius muscles that can also affect your elbows.  Try lying on a lacrosse ball and find those points and grind the ball into them.  

paddleboard

Conclusion 

These simple tips should keep you pain free on your SUP for years. Just remember that if you do start feeling pain, to take a break and ice and roll out those areas.  Our simple warm up and foam rolling before and after your paddle sessions will do wonders for you.