Have you ever experienced bow string slap? As a beginner archer, it’s important for you to learn how to prevent injury while engaging in the sport of archery. Even though archery is one of the safest sports you can choose to enjoy, injuries do still occur. If you happen to experience bow string slap, know that it does hurt. Most archers who injure themselves this way end up with a red mark, possibly a bruise, and even a scar.
The good news is that more often than not, this particular injury does not cause any serious wounds. While string slap does happen more often to new archers, know that even seasoned archers can experience this fairly common archery-related injury from time to time.
Additional archery-related injuries such as muscle strains, rotator cuff injuries, and tendinitis does occur, but is not nearly as common as string slap.
What Is Bow String Slap?
Bow string slap is an archery term used to describe what happens when a bow string hits a shooter’s inner forearm. After releasing the bow string, a slapping motion of the string occurs, which can hit one’s arm as it’s transitioning back into its original position. Archers who experience this issue will not only sustain some form of injury, it also affects their accuracy. Why? Because arrow flight precision is negatively impacted once the string slaps the arm. String slap essentially has the potential to deflect an arrow more to the left or to the right of the intended target.
Since you want to avoid bow string hitting wrist problems, as well as bow string hitting elbow problems, you need to understand what causes this type of injury so you can learn how to prevent it from happening to you.
What Causes Bow String Slap?
No archer wants to experience injuries when shooting, no matter how minor. This makes it essential for you to learn what causes string slap so you can prevent it from happening in the first place. The most common reason why this happens? Not properly positioning your hands, shoulders, elbows, and/or feet. What to do? Practice the proper positions until it becomes second nature. What else can cause string slap? Not properly setting up your archery equipment. Be sure to set up your bow with a draw length that’s not too long or a brace height that’s too short.
Some of the more common reasons why bow string slap occurs.
- Incorrect Grip
- Improper Elbow Rotation
- Long Draw Length
- Low Brace Height
- Closed Stance Positioning
How To Prevent Bow String Slap
So how do you avoid this from happening to you? Firstly, relax. It’s common for many new archers to hold their bow too tightly as they feel this gives them more control. It doesn’t. Instead, you need to relax your grip, face your elbow crease inward, relax your shoulders, open your stance, use correct draw length, shoot with a higher brace height, and work on strengthening your upper body strength. Additionally, you can purchase archery accessories made specifically to protect against arm damage if string slap were to occur.
The below information describes the details of what archers can do to prevent bow string slap:
1. Improve Your Grip.
A proper grip is essential to avoid injury caused by string slap. When gripping a bow, the bow handle should settle inside your hands lifeline and rest between your thumb and index finger. Your knuckles should form a line at a 45° angle to the vertical of the riser. Don’t hold the riser too deep in your hand and instead it should rest against the fleshy pad of your thumb. Your remaining fingers should be off to the side and thus not touching the grip. While the goal is to relax your hand, your grip still needs to be firm enough to keep your bow from slipping when shooting. Wrist/bow slings and finger slings are available as well.
2. Rotate Your Elbow.
Failure to correctly rotate the elbow is a top reason why archers experience this archery-related injury. Proper elbow rotation keeps your arm out of the string’s path. Your elbow should be facing out in a vertical position vs. facing up, as this lessens the amount of surface area to slap. You can practice proper elbow form to help perfect your posture by performing the following exercise – place your hand on a wall, rotate your elbow out and away, and then apply the form to your bow.
3. Fix Your Stance.
A closed or square stance has a higher likelihood of causing string slap. So what to do? Try an open stance. Adjusting your foot stance changes the angle of your body. In turn, this changes the amount of space between your arm and your bow string. Thus, opening your stance decreases your chances of experiencing string slap because your bow arm is no longer in the string’s path. Since opening your stance too far may make it more difficult for you to maintain proper form, be sure to make small adjustments to your stance to find a position that works best for you.
4. Shorten Your Draw Length
Choosing a draw length that’s too long is a common mistake that many archers make. Draw length that is too long not only increases your chance of experiencing string slap, it also affects your ability to make a good shot. If you find yourself creeping forward before release, shortening your draw length is may be necessary. An easy way to figure your correct draw length? Stand with your back against a wall. Stretch your arms out against the wall. Measure the distance between your middle fingers. Take this number and divide by 2.5. This will provide you with a close estimate of your draw length.
5. Adjust Your Brace Height
Sometimes it’s necessary to make adjustments to your equipment to help prevent injury. For example, if your brace height is too short, it places your wrist very close to the string. In turn, this creates a smaller margin for error. Any subtle change can increase the likelihood of slapping your wrist. Since every archer wants to avoid any bow string hitting wrist problems, be sure to check your brace height and either lengthen your brace height or shoot a bow that’s more forgiving.
6. Increase Your Upper Body Strength.
As a new archer, building up your muscular strength and endurance is one of the more important things you can do. A strong core helps you control your bow, as well as helps keep you balanced. Performing some strengthening exercises and/or archery stretches will help. Exercises that strengthen your core, back, and upper body along with stretches for full-range of motion will be best.
7. Protect Your Forearm With An Arm Guard.
What’s an archery arm guard? Many archers choose to purchase this protective accessory item, no matter their level of experience. The goal is to prevent injury, as string slap can still happen, although rarely, even when following all prevention methods. An archery arm guard is simply a protective arm shield. There are a few different options to choose from, making it a good idea to learn about them so you can make the right choice.
How To Treat Bow String Slap
Most injuries sustained via bow string slap will go away within a few days. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to address any swelling., bruising, tenderness, and/or pain caused by a string slap.
Use the R.I.C.E. method to immediately treat a string slap injury. The acronym stands for Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. Rest the injured area. Use ice to reduce any swelling or pain. Compress, or wrap, the injured area to help decrease swelling. Elevate the area above the heart to also help minimize swelling. Archers can use this at-home treatment option for 2 to 3 days to assist in the healing process. For injuries that don’t show improvement or for more serious injuries, seeking professional medical assistance may be necessary.
2. Apply Heat
Applying heat the next day will help boost blood circulation, as well as relieve any lingering pain. It also helps relax your muscles and heal any damaged tissue caused by the injury. Using heat on a bruise helps to clear up any trapped blood underneath the skin. Using a heating pad or a hot water bottle is a safe way to apply heat to your injury. Applying heat for only 20 to 30 minutes at a time is best, which you can do up to 3 times a day.
3. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is well known for its excellent healing properties as this natural treatment option contains anti-inflammatory chemical compounds. This means applying aloe vera topically helps to reduce any inflammation present, as well as helps to reduce pain. You can apply a generous amount to your injured area, and there’s no limit to how long you can use this treatment option to feel better.
As a new archer, it’s important for you to learn how to prevent archery-related injuries. While archery is one of the safest sports to partake in, there are a few different ways archers can indeed injure themselves. This makes it essential for you to learn how to protect yourself from injury when shooting. If you happen to get injured, following the above treatments will help heal your injury so you can recover and get back to shooting as quickly as possible!