A guide to the most common causes of knee pain in lawn bowls, as well as how to treat it.
Injuries are an unfortunate part of playing sport. Despite the gentle image of bowls, bowlers are not immune to them.
Most common injuries have obvious causes, and treatments, these include shoulder and finger issues. However, there is one type of injury that is common, yet is showded in mystery! Yes, dreaded knee injuries.
There is more to knee injuries than simple “over-use”. In this guide I hope to help those who get frequent knee injuries understand more about what is going on, as well as helping everyone else prevent them.
If you are concerned by your knee pain, I would urge you to speak to your doctor or a physiotherapy professional. They will be able to properly assess your condition, and help you through a personal recover plan.
The advice I have here is just from my own personal experience with knee pain, as well as conversations I have had with other bowlers.
There are 3 common complaints that I hear about knee pain in lawn bowls:
Pain below or under the knee cap building up during play. This is a dull ache that grows as you play. This can also lead to stiffness in the joint. It doesn’t have to get worse as you complete your delivery, but will as you walk around the green
Aches after playing. The pain only occurs after playing – usually the day after. This ache will go away with some rest in a few days, but can be frustrating if you want to play more.
Pain when going through the delivery. This is the most worrying. A sharp pain in the knee as you go through your delivery.
There are 3 major causes of knee pain:
- Wear and tear
- Technical issues
Here we will go through how these cause knee pain, hopefully you can identify how yours is caused.
It is not uncommon to bowl 4 or 5 times a week, if you practice on top of that you can find yourself bowling every day! That repetitive lunging motion can cause issues in your joints, especially those that bare the greater forces.
Over use injuries can be common at the start of a season when you haven’t bowled for several months, and then start bowling 5 times a week.
This is usually characterised by the gradual pain that builds up through a game.
Most bowlers are in the older age groups, this makes us more susceptible to wear and tear injuries. This is similar to an overuse injury, however this is different as the “overuse” is likely over many years, and not over the short term.
You will find you will get pain in your knee for several days after a game if you have wear and tear issues with your knee.
Something that can cause issues is if your leading knee goes forward beyond your toes. Ideally, the should be no more than a 90-degree angle on your leading knee.
When you do a lunging motion (which a bowls delivery is) it is important not to let your knee go beyond your toes. This puts extra stress on your knee, and the ligaments below the knee cap. This will cause a sharp pain in your knee.
First, prevent any further damage. The RICE method is the way to go to help the early onset of the injury.
- Rest. Rest and protect the injured or sore area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or soreness.
- Ice. Cold will reduce pain and swelling. Apply an ice or cold pack right away to prevent or minimize swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day. After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply heat to the area that hurts. Do not apply ice or heat directly to the skin. Place a towel over the cold or heat pack before applying it to the skin.
- Compression. Compression, or wrapping the injured or sore area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), will help decrease swelling. Don’t wrap it too tightly, because this can cause more swelling below the affected area. Loosen the bandage if it gets too tight. Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness, or swelling in the area below the bandage. Talk to your doctor if you think you need to use a wrap for longer than 48 to 72 hours; a more serious problem may be present.
- Elevation. Elevate the injured or sore area on pillows while applying ice and anytime you are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to help minimize swelling.
This should always be your first port of call if you are concerned.
This is the only way to diagnose the underlying issue. You will receive some guidance on how to treat at home, or you will be referred to a specialist in the specific condition you have.
Once inflammation and swelling have gone down, and you are signed off to play by your doctor, record yourself bowling to see if you are affected by the technical issue outlined above.
Some bowlers have seen improvement once they start using the Shooter Stance. The added focus on balance can help with over balancing on your front foot.
Speak to your club coach, as they will (hopefully) be awareof these issues, and they will help correct any technical issues.
Prevention is always better than the cure. Follow this guidance and you will be well on your way to an injury free season!
Just like warming up an engine in a car, its best to warm your muscles up ready to play. This will not only help you not get injured, but will also help your game, as your body and mind will be prepared.
See this guide on stretching for lawn bowls.
This is especially important at the start of a new season. Don’t throw yourself into playing 21 ends 7 days a week off the bat. Plan your sessions to get longer, and more frequent over the first 2-3 weeks.
See our guide on planning for a new season for more information.
Our knee joints might be more at risk if the muscles around it are weak. Weak supporting muscles will put extra stress on your ligaments, which in turn will lead to more injuries.
Here are some exercises that will help build up those supporting muscles.