With a spotlight on archery thanks to TV shows like "Revolution" and movies like "The Hunger Games" and "Brave," and the recent archery competitions of the Summer Olympics in London, young girls and boys are picking up the ancient hobby in record numbers. However, rehabilitation and pediatric experts at Harris Health System caution parents about the potential dangers of long-term injuries resulting from the pastime to hands, wrists, arms and shoulders.
"Most would think the obvious injury would be accidentally shooting yourself or others with an arrow, but it's actually injuries involving shoulders, elbows and wrists that predominate.
"While archery lessons are a must before children pick up the sport, it's important that children be strong enough to hold a bow and draw or pull the bow string. Coordination is important as the arrow must be loaded or notched properly. The child should be able to learn and follow the rules of the sport," says F. Kay Brown, OTR, CHT, senior occupational therapist, Harris Health Quentin Mease Hospital.
When beginning any sport, preparation is important.
The beginner archer should be examined by a family physician. The doctor's examination should focus on the child's shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand. Shoulder and arm strength is essential when learning to shoot a bow and arrow. The child may need to begin light strength training and stretching in preparation for archery lessons.
"Without proper preparation, the child could experience shoulder strain and possible injury," says Dr. Elizabeth Bosquez, medical director, Harris Health Pediatric and Adolescent Health Centers-Bear Creek and Cypress. "All injuries or strains that last several days should be reported to medical professionals for evaluation and treatment."
Shoulder injuries are usually caused by the repetitive nature of the sport. The rotator cuff and attached tendons and ligaments are prone to soreness because of overuse. In younger children, there is the danger of growth cartilage damage from overtraining or overuse. This could result in long-term damage to arms as adults.
When drawing the bow string there is great stress on the tendons of the elbow. When shooting, the elbow of the bow arm is held in extension and the opposite elbow is bent or flexed. Repeated shooting may result in inflammation of the tendons and micro tears in the elbow tissue. This will produce pain with shooting and gripping the bow. This can be relieved with rest, icing and anti-inflammatories. Stretching and strengthening forearm muscles will reduce this type of injury.
Wrists and Hands:
The wrist and hand are also affected by repetitive shooting. Some injuries could include neuropathy or loss of movement, sensation or other function to fingers or hands. Additionally, some chronic conditions could include carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful nerve compression at the wrist or de Quervain's tenosynovitis, a painful tendon inflammation on the thumb side of the wrist. These injuries can be avoided by modifying training schedules, using proper equipment and wearing protective gear such as gloves or forearm bands.
To reduce sports-related injuries, the experts suggest training programs that include aerobic fitness, flexibility, strength training and education on injury prevention.
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