Tenpin Bowling Stretches and Flexibility Exercises

Tenpin bowling stretching exercises to improve your game and do away with tenpin bowling injuries for good.

by Brad Walker | First Published May 8, 2010 | Updated August 12, 2017

Tenpin bowling is a competitive sport where a player tries to score points by knocking down pins with the help of a ball rolled along a wooden or a polyurethane lane.

According to an estimate, more individuals play bowling than any other sport; with the notable exception of football. Its origins can be traced to antiquity. However, bowling gained popularity only after it spread to America in the 16th century.

Anatomy Involved

Tenpin Bowling Stretches and Flexibility ExercisesBowling involves all the major muscle groups including the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus (buttocks), deltoid and the rotator cuff complex; of particular interest are the muscles of the upper extremity with those affecting grip and finger strength. Joints of importance to the bowler from an injury prevention perspective are the thumb, fingers, wrist and the knee joints.

Ten-pin bowling requires a tremendous amount of speed, strength, agility and coordination. Large ground reaction forces acting on the joints of the body, and repetitive movements during training and competition put the athlete at an increased risk of injury.

More often than not, injuries involve fingers, wrists, elbow and shoulder. However, knee and lower back injuries are a common occurrence as well. Injuries due to falls, and dislocation or sprains due to fingers getting caught in the holes of the ball can also occur.

Most Common Tenpin Bowling Injuries

Bowlers are prone to a wide variety of both acute injuries and those resulting from overuse. The nature of the activity causes considerable stress to muscles, tendons and ligaments as well as making such athletes vulnerable to strains and sprains. Some of the more frequently encountered injuries include:

  • Thumb Sprain: Most commonly reported injuries in bowling involve the thumb. Symptoms of thumb sprain include pain and swelling over the base of the joint, pain on movement, and in the webbing between the thumb and the forefinger. Severe cases are characterized by instability of the joint. Injuries with instability may require surgical intervention. Some of the other injuries affecting the thumb are acute compression neuropathy of the ulnar digital nerve also called bowler’s thumb, and intra-articular fractures of thumb called mechanical bull thumb.
  • Finger Sprain: These are caused by damage to the ligaments due to movements in excess of that allowed at a particular joint. Symptoms involve swelling, pain during movement, restriction of movement and in severe cases, instability of the joint.
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Repetitive activity, trauma or fractures that reduce the space in the carpal tunnel formed by the wrist bones beneath, and a band of fibrous tissue over it, can cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Impingement of the median nerve is the cause of the syndrome, which is characterized by tingling numbness with pain or weakness over the hand or fingers. Diagnosis is usually clinical but an EMG study can confirm the diagnosis.
  • Biceps Tendinopathy: Biceps tendinopathy is a general term used to describe a variety of injuries involving the tendon of origin of the biceps. As the names suggest, tendinitis and peritendinitis involves inflammation of the tendon or tendinous sheath. Degenerative change in the tendon is referred to as tendinosis, whereas degenerative changed over a bony prominence due to repetitive movement of a tendon is called tenosynovistis.Pain over the bicipetal groove (front of the shoulder) radiating down to the elbow, which increases in intensity on shoulder flexion, elbow flexion or forearm supination (actions of biceps), is the hallmark of diagnosis of bicipetal tendinopathy. Modality of treatment specific to this type of injury involves scapular stabilization. Correction of posture with conscious efforts of pinching the shoulder blades together, as well as use of posture braces, forms an important part of treatment. Strengthening of trapezius, serratus anterior muscle and latissimus dorsi is usually advocated.
  • DeQuervain’s Syndrome (or Tenosynovistis): Holding the heavy ball, over a period of time, is thought to cause DeQuervain’s Syndrome. Pain over the thumb side of the wrist, with or without swelling, and presence of crepitus is diagnostic of the condition. Inflammation due to repetitive movement of tendons of two small muscles of the thumb, Abductor Pollicis Longus (APL) and Extensor Pollicis Brevis (EPB), over the lower part of radius bone leads to this condition. Previous injury with subsequent scar tissue at the site, as well as arthritis, also contributes to the condition. Use of a thumb spica splint is considered important in rehabilitation.
  • Ankle Injuries: Sudden change of direction, twisting, improper landing and falls are all causes of ankle sprain. Pain, bruising swelling, bleeding into the joint and varying grades of rupture of the supporting ligaments can occur. Most commonly, the lateral ligament (on the outer aspect of the joint) is injured. Inversion sprains are considered to be responsible. However, deltoid ligament sprains (on the inner side of the joint) can also occur. Severe cases may involve bones. An important aspect of rehabilitation of ankle injury is the use of wobble boards or a trampoline to improve balance and proprioception.
  • Knee Ligament Injuries: Sudden change in direction, twisting and improper landing can lead to injuries to the knee joint. Most commonly, the ligaments are involved; namely, the cruciates, the menisci or the collaterals. Pain, bruising, swelling and instability of the joint are the usual features. Depending on the grade of injury, healing may require between four to twelve weeks. Severe grades of injury may require surgical reconstruction of structures. Use of knee braces, wobble boards and lower extremity eccentric work are important aspects of rehabilitation of knee ligament injuries.
  • Patello-Femoral Syndrome: During ball release, the patella grinds over the surface of the femur in a semi-flexed knee. Over time, such stress leads to inflammation causing patello-femoral syndrome. Faulty foot structure as well as mal-alignment of the leg can also cause the syndrome. Symptoms include gradually increasing pain in the front of the knee, typically felt while climbing a flight of stairs. Later, simple activities like sitting in a chair, kneeling and jogging causes pain. Important aspects of rehabilitation include quadriceps and gluteus strengthening, use of braces to strengthen surrounding structures and orthotics to correct structural abnormalities, if any.
  • Shoulder Injuries: The shoulder goes through various movements during different stages of bowling. In the cocking phase, before delivery of the ball, abduction, posterior flexion and external rotation occurs. During release, there is forceful adduction with forward flexion and internal rotation, which is followed by sweeping of the arm across the chest during follow-through. This multitude of actions can cause shoulder joint ligaments tears and impingement syndromes (involving tendons of the rotator cuff or biceps). Use of passive and active stretching, therabands and strengthening with calisthenics and free weights is advocated for rehabilitation.
  • Lower Back: Injuries affecting the lower back in bowling are due to an improper technique, sudden undue stretching of stiffened muscles and muscle fatigue. Ligament strains of the joints of the lumbar vertebrae and disc prolapsed are some of the other injuries observed.

In addition, muscle sprains or spasms of the quadriceps, hamstrings and adductor group of muscles are common.

Injury Prevention Strategies

Tenpin Bowling Stretching ExercisesProper training, good overall conditioning, and using well maintained and correctly fitted equipment will help reduce the overall incidence of injury. Additionally:

  • The use of proper technique, with regular input from coaches, will help to reduce injuries.
  • Design and implementation of a fitness regimen for improving: core strength; finger and wrist strength; and muscles specific to bowling like the shoulders, forearm, quadriceps, hamstrings and adductors.
  • Warm up for 10 to 20 minute before playing; including cardio work or calisthenics (exercises using body weight) and stretching exercises.
  • Stretching, with specific emphasis on the muscles used in bowling like the shoulders, quadriceps, hamstrings and lower back.

The Top 3 Tenpin Bowling Stretches

Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for tenpin bowling; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions below each stretch.

Tenpin bowling chest and shoulder stretch

Assisted Reverse Chest Stretch: Stand upright with your back towards a table or bench and place your hands on the edge. Bend your arms and slowly lower your entire body.

Tenpin bowling lower back and core stretch

Lying Knee Roll-over Stretch: While lying on your back, bend your knees and let them fall to one side. Keep your arms out to the side and let your back and hips rotate with your knees.

Tenpin bowling hip and quad stretch

Kneeling Quad Stretch: Kneel on one foot and the other knee. If needed, hold on to something to keep your balance and then push your hips forward.

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Brad Walker - AKA The Stretch CoachAbout the Author: Brad is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.