As a lawn bowler, you are part of an ever-growing community of over 250,000 (officially registered) lawn bowl players in Australia, with growing numbers of clubs in the United States.
This supportive community does a wonderful job of providing an encouraging community and friendly competition but participating in any physical activity still has its risks for injury. To help care for and prevent common ailments related to lawn bowls, refer to the guide below and learn how to keep yourself in peak lawn bowl playing condition.
Common Injuries In Lawn Bowls
According to Sports Medicine of Australia, nearly one-fifth of those who visit hospital for treatment following a lawn bowl injury require hospitalization
Falls account for nearly 59% of the lawn bowl associated injuries. There are multiple ways players fall during lawn bowl:
- They step forward over the ditch when entering, rather than entering sideways onto the playing green.
- They fall backward over a bowl.
- They trip or slip when navigating the park area around the playing green (on uneven turf, stones, etc.)
-These falls and slips can result in fractures in various locations (35%), and multiple cuts and bruises (23%).
For most patients, recovering from a fracture is going to take some time. Depending on your age and the severity of the facture, healing may take anywhere from 6-8 weeks up to one year.
In lawn bowls, the most common sites of fracture are the wrist and the ankle, due to tripping and falling and bending the ankle awkwardly and using the arms and wrist to support oneself. For a wrist facture, again depending on severity, it may take eight weeks to six months to fully heal. For ankle fractures, it may take six-ten weeks for it to heal, again depending on the severity as the ankle bears more weight on a regular basis than the wrist.
Overexertion accounts for 31% of injuries related to lawn bowl. Overexertion can have multiple causes.
If you are playing in unsafe conditions (extreme heat) or playing while impaired you are more likely to be dehydrated, susceptible to overheating, and less able to judge the safety in your movements or on the playing field. Another common culprit behind overexertion is not waiting for an injury to heal. While it is exciting (and can sometimes feel helpful) to get back outside for fresh air and competition, the best way to prevent re-injury is to allow proper time to rest and heal. This can often result in sprains and strains. The severity here depends on the severity of the initial injury, as well as your age. Those lawn bowlers between 55-75 were more likely to suffer from overexertion due to exacerbation of a previous injury.
With lawn bowl, there is risk for injury due to repetitive movements. Frequent bending, squatting, and throwing of the ball puts constant strain on the hips, lower back, and wrist. Mild hip strains can take a few weeks to heal, but a more severe one (or one that was not properly rested before returning to activity) can take six weeks or more to properly heal.Injury to the lower back, from twisting or bending, can result in immediate pain that often subsides within a few days.
However, it is still important to rest the back during this time, as it can take between one-two weeks for the muscles to fully heal.
Wrist injuries occur due to tears or stretches in the ligaments that connect the bones in your wrist. The severity of the pain will indicate to you the severity of the injury.
Typically, the more painful the wrist, the longer it will take to heal. Approximate healing time for wrist strains is between two-ten weeks.
Struck by Bowls
The third most common reported injury for lawn bowlers are those related to being struck by a bowl. Most commonly, these result in minor bruises, but can occasionally lead to fractures if the bowl hits a weakened or previously injured part of the body.
Before you play
The best preparation and prevention of injury is to ensure your body is prepared before beginning physical activity. Always consult with your doctor if you are uncertain about your ability to safely participate in lawn bowl.
Practice balance training (single-leg exercises, walking in a straight line, etc.) to help strengthen your legs, core, back, and neck.
Focus on gentle, weight-bearing exercises in these areas to ensure they are strong and able to protect you during the full range of motion exhibited in many movements in lawn bowl.
Additionally, when playing, always check for proper form and technique to mitigate any potential injury.
Stretching prior to play will also facilitate improved range of motion, prevent muscle strain, and increase your tendons’ elasticity, making them less prone to injury. Below are six easy stretches you can do prior to and after lawn bowl, and five of them are seated. If you feel pain at all during any of the exercises, stop immediately. Follow these stretches in order:
- Hugging no one: As the name implies, reach both arms out in front of you for a hug, then open them as wide as you can. Repeat ten times.
- Big nods: Slowly look down to your toes (or lap) and up toward the sky ten times.
- Shoulder rolls: Roll your shoulders up, forward, and back ten times. Repeat by rolling shoulders up, back, and forward ten times.
- Looking behind: Place both hands on the outside of one hip, and gently turn your body toward that side. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat five times on each side.
- Hamstring stretch: Sit at the edge of your seat. Keep one leg bent and flat on the floor and extend your other leg outward with your toes pointing toward the sky until you feel a stretch at the back of your knee and through your hamstring. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat five times on each side.
- Calf stretch (standing): Stand, facing a wall. Place your hands on the wall for balance. With both feet pointing forward, place one leg in front of you, and one leg slightly behind. Bend your front knee until you feel a stretch in your back leg. Hold for ten seconds, and repeat five times on each side. Prior to entering onto the game field, it is also important to ensure you have all the necessary equipment in addition to your lawn bowl materials. Always wear sunscreen, and make sure your footwear is sturdy and has sufficient tread. Avoid consuming alcohol while playing and stay well hydrated. You should always consult with a lawn bowl professional if you have questions regarding the equipment that is best suited to your playing needs.
Ideally, the lawn bowl facility where you play should be equipped with an emergency or first aid kit and a professional coach to assist in proper form and technique.
If you find yourself injured or feeling unwell at any time during your play, notify someone and rest. Resume playing when you feel well enough to do so.
Additionally, if you require an accommodation (wheelchair, specialized equipment, etc.), it is recommended that you check in with the facility prior to play to ensure your safety.
With the proper precautions and equipment, lawn bowl can be a safe, fun way to socialize and commune with friends and fellow players. Remember to stretch, watch your surroundings and form, and above all, have fun.