Bowls is a game for all ages and abilities. Regardless of your previous athletic experience you will get involved with bowls and be able to be competitive. However there are some conditions that cause players to be concerned about whether or not they can continue to play bowls – the most common is arthritis.
It is completely understandable for someone to question whether they can start/continue playing bowls if they develop arthritis. Arthritis affects the joints, commonly in the fingers, wrists, knees and back – all of which are used heavily in the game of bowls.
In this guide I’ll go over:
- the main ways arthritis affects a bowler
- whether or not you can continue to play bowls with arthritis
- what you can do to help play bowls if you have arthritis
How arthritis affects playing bowls
Firstly, lets look at the ways arthritis can affect you if you play bowls. The most common places I see bowlers struggling with arthritis are in the fingers, wrists, knees and back. The first two affect the ability to hold and control the bowl through your delivery, and the last two affect the ability to get down to deliver the bowl (or at least the ability to get back up after!).
Fingers and wrists
As mentioned above having arthritis in either the fingers or wrists can make it uncomfortable to hold a bowl (in the case of fingers), or in controlling it as you go through the delivery (in the case of the wrist).
Grip issues are more prominent for those who have a slightly large bowl for their hand, as this can require extra grip strength in the fingers. This will make it harder to continue playing with a higher size.
Wrist issues are more prominent for those who require a big back swing in their delivery – primarily if you play outdoors on slow surfaces. To be able to control a bowl through a back swing requires stability in the wrist, which is affected by those with arthritis there.
Knees and back
Knees and back issues go hand-in-hand. Having arthritis in either will affect your ability to bend down, making it hard to get through your delivery motion properly.
The other main consideration is that a game of bowls can go on for some time, and a player will go through their delivery motion repeatedly over that time. This means that any niggle will get worse over the course of a game.
Now we have all the doom and gloom out of the way, let’s look at the big question…
Can you play bowls with arthritis?
Yes, you can play bowls with arthritis. Bowls is a low impact sport making it ideal for those who suffer from arthritis.
Whilst arthritis will have an impact on how you play the game, there are a variety of aids you can buy and adjustments you can make to make the game easier and more comfortable.
Adjustments you can make
If you want to continue playing bowls with arthritis, or if you are thinking of starting, there are a couple of changes you can make to make playing a bit more comfortable.
Use a smaller bowl
If you have arthritis in your fingers then you may have trouble gripping onto the bowl.
A simple solution to this is to use smaller bowls. Smaller bowls will sit in the hand easier, and will weigh less, so they won’t need too much pressure to maintain control.
If you find you can’t get down to the ground like you used to, then you may consider using a bowling aid, such as a bowling arm.
Bowling arms allow you to deliver a bowl without having to bend down at all. Not only that, they are signed off for use in any club or national competition by all major national bodies. This means you can carry on playing as you were.
Supports and straps
If bowling arms aren’t your “thing” quite yet, and you just need a little extra help in you delivery stride, then some simple straps and supports will do the trick.
Cheap to buy, and easy to find – supports can be found online and on the high street for just about any joint in the body.
You might need a bit of trail and error to find one that is right for you, but it’s well worth the time invested.
Many folk feel they can’t carry on with the things that they love once they get arthritis. Physical activities are usually the first to go. However, will proper treatment and support you can continue to enjoy bowls years after getting diagnosed with arthritis.