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PAIN MANAGEMENT: Let’s Face It, Bowling Can Be A pain!

By Nick Bohanan
Injuries and pain come with the territory in bowling, just as they do in all sports. Part of my job while traveling with Team USA is to help the athletes minimize the negative effects of injuries, enabling them to perform at a high level while not risking further injury.

The most common ailments during competition are low-back tightness and muscle strains, wrist pain and knee pain. Naturally, at Team USA we have the benefit of advanced equipment (such as the TENS unit, which uses an electric signal to stimulate nerves), but there are plenty of ways for a bowler to lessen the impact of injuries during competition without the aid of a trainer.

LOW-BACK PAIN: Muscular strains and tightness of the low back is one injury for which I use ice with extreme caution. In my experience, ice tends to increase the tightness that the athletes feel. I prefer the use of heating pads (or heat therapy patches). The heat helps relax the muscles that are tight and restricting movement. I use deep tissue massage, but stretching of the hips and upper back also help take pressure off the injured area. At the 2011 World Women’s Championships, the use of the TENS unit was very important and was even worn during competition.

WRIST PAIN: Wrist pain can be caused by an improper fit or by squeezing the ball during the swing. It is important in the management of this type of pain that the athlete consults a skilled pro shop operator and certified coach to have their ball fit checked and any faulty mechanics fine-tuned. Other causes can be from the use of static stretches prior to the muscle being properly warmed up. Massage and several repetitions of wrist curls and extensions, and circles can aid in loosening the wrist. Ice massage after bowling is recommended for controlling inflammation.

KNEE PAIN: General knee pain is easily managed in large part by properly warming up the muscles around the knee and hips. This would include stretching the hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, glutes and calf muscles. The use of ice is recommended after bowling. An added benefit would be the use of ice massage around the kneecap.

When dealing with injuries, the preferred method of pain management is through over-the-counter non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, and through RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation). This method works great for muscular strains, swelling, and most joint sprains and pain.

If you have no signs of improvement after a week of this treatment, a formal medical evaluation is recommended.

— Nick Bohanan is United States Bowling Congress Sports Performance Specialist.