Preventing & Curing Injuries

Buzz Powell

Australian Canoeing, Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Australian Canoeing talks to Therese (Buzz) Powell about kayaking injuries, their avoidance and treatment should injuries occur.

Buzz has a background
ideally suited to this topic. She has a degree in Applied Science
(Physiotherapy) and a busy physiotherapy practice in North Sydney.
In addition, she has been involved in kayaking for fifteen years – in
sprint and marathon racing, surf-ski paddling, and sea kayaking (e.g. Bass Strait crossing in 2001) and she has extensive coaching experience.?

The major injuries
that kayakers bring to Buzz for assessment and treatment are rotator
cuff injuries, lower back pain and tenosynovitis of the wrist and
elbow. (Tenosynovitis is defined as inflammation of a tendon sheath,
with swelling and perhaps audible creaking on movement. It usually
results from repetitive movements. “Tennis elbow” is a form of
tenosynovitis.) Buzz said “I am usually approached by those with
chronic injuries that have developed slowly. Kayakers with acute
traumatic injuries normally go directly to a doctor”.

AC asked Buzz how she
assesses and treats these injuries. Buzz replied “I start with an
assessment of the patient’s muscular and skeletal systems to diagnose
the problem and see if there are issues such as back stiffness or
shoulder and neck problems. Then I have a look at the patient’s
on-the-water paddling technique. I have found that kayaking injuries
are often due to poor paddling technique, either due to lack of
coaching or due to poor posture in the kayak. Poor posture can be
difficult to rectify if it is the result of a previous injury (such as
a disc prolapse) or the result of many years sitting slumped at a

Buzz uses a
three-part regime to treat these injuries. The first part of the regime
consists of manual therapy in her rooms. The second part consists of a
program of strengthening exercises to correct any muscular weakness or
imbalance. The third part is training to correct the patient’s paddle
stroke where necessary and to develop training routines that will help
avoid further injuries. Buzz stressed that a big part of her approach
is to teach her clients how to prevent further occurrences. Buzz said
“With this treatment regime, by far the majority of my clients don’t
need to seek further medical attention”.

AC asked Buzz how to
avoid injuries in the first place. Buzz replied by emphasizing the need
for regular coaching to develop good technique. She said “Many kayakers
have never had any coaching, or maybe only a couple of early lessons.
Good technique developed through regular skilled coaching is so
important for injury prevention. As Matt Blundell said in the last
issue of E-News, even when not training with a coach, kayakers should
concentrate on technique during every stroke in every kayaking

When asked about
weight training, Buzz said “In general, weight training is valuable,
especially when used to increase core strength. There is, however, a
need to find a suitably qualified strength and conditioning coach,
personal trainer or physiotherapist able to develop a paddling based
strength program. ”

She talked about
younger paddlers. She said “Younger paddlers need lots of variety for
all-round muscular development. A typical training programme might
consist of a paddling, stretching, core stability and body weight
exercises (rather than the development of big muscles), running or bike
riding.” She added “Don’t forget older kayakers. They need to be
especially aware of the onset of joint stiffness and muscular tightness
and either ease back their intensity or seek medical attention.”

When asked for a
final few words, Buzz said “Aim to achieve good technique. It will not
only improve your kayaking speed and endurance, it will also help you
to avoid injuries. However, should chronic pain occur, don’t ignore it,
seek attention sooner rather than later.”