Row Row Your Dragon Boat Down the Singapore River - IFC Physiotherapy Singapore

This week I wanted to dedicate our blog to our newest affiliates, the awesome British Dragon Boat team. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this hugely popular and ever expanding sport, Dragon boating is a 2000 year old form of rowing originating in China. One boat typically consists of 20 paddlers, 1 drummer or ‘caller’ to keep rhythm and 1 ‘sweep’ or steerer.

While great fun, it is also extremely taxing on your musculoskeletal system, requiring well coordinated, repetitive, high force movements to power the boat forward. Stats from the US refer to a 50% turn over of paddlers per season largely due to individuals not seeking treatment.

The assumption that on-going niggles, aches and pains are all ‘part of the sport’, can lead to on-going disability and injury as well as prolonged periods where you can’t paddle.

Here are some of the top 5 musculoskeletal dragon boat related injuries:

  • Lower back strain and muscle tension.
  • Shoulder: common injuries include tendinitis and/or bursitis in the rotator cuff muscles as well as pain and mild instability in the front of the shoulder
  • Tendinitis in the elbow and forearm as a result of holding paddles too tightly and/or wrist and/or forearm repetitive strain.
  • Wrist: nerve compression symptoms resulting in hand numbness, tingling and weakness.
  • Hand abrasions from banging on the boat.

The majority of the above are overuse injuries. For paddlers without predisposing conditions, symptoms usually settle down well with physiotherapy and mild training modifications. Early recognition and action is however essential to avoid chronic pain and disability.

So what you can you lovely paddlers do to protect yourselves from injury?


  • Full body strength training to prevent imbalances and ensure muscle fiber endurance as well as to protect your joints
  • Core stability work to strengthen and protect the spine and supporting muscles
  • Whole body stretching and ideally frequent foam rolling to maintain flexibility
  • For the more frequent competitors among you – regular, good quality sports massage is highly recommended to keep your muscles in tip top condition and prevent ‘knots’ and imbalances
  • Well planned, effective, warm up and cool down
  • Frequent cardio training to ensure you have the stamina to keep paddling
  • A well balanced diet to ensure optimum muscle and joint health as well as to provide you with enough energy to keep going!

So you beautiful paddlers, don’t just ignore those repetitive aches and pains, why not come by and get them checked out at our 39 HongKong street clinic? 

Annie Henderson