Top tips for canoe and kayak paddlers


How to avoid injury and enhance performance

Following the great success of Team GB’s Canoe Slalom and Sprint Teams at the Rio Olympic Games 2016, our new Richmond Physiotherapy team member Joe Coakley (Physiotherapist for British Canoeing – Junior & U23 Sprint Canoe Team) identifies common injuries in canoe and kayak athletes and suggests key exercises to avoid injury and increase speed.


1. Rotator Cuff Muscles

These muscles provide stability and control for the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff tendons are a common source of shoulder pain in paddlers.




2. Core Strength

Up to 50% of stroke force comes from the trunk. Reduced contribution of the trunk muscles results in increased strain on the shoulder to compensate.



3.  Thoracic Spine / Middle back

Rotation of the thoracic spine is essential in minimising injury and generating more power. Stiffness and tightness in this area can lead to discomfort and put more strain on the shoulder muscles.



A foam roller can be used to release tight muscle and fascia (the connective tissue that sits over muscles).


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For those of you unfamiliar with Sprint Canoe, here is all you need to know:

Boat Types

Kayaks (K) and Canoes (C). In Kayak, paddlers are seated with a two blade paddle. Canoe is performed kneeling on one knee, with a single blade paddle.





Race Distances

Sprint is performed on flat water over 200m, 500m, and 1000m.


Categorised by the type of boat and number of paddlers in the boat. There are Canoe and Kayak single (C1 & K2), Double (C2 & K2) and Quadruple (K4 & C4) events.

If injured, seek advice from a physiotherapist before commencing exercises. The number of sets and repetitions will be individually tailored to each patient.

Lawton Gate House,
7 Hill Street, Richmond,
London, TW9 1SX

020 8332 1132