How to Deal with Kayaking Injuries

Tips for Properly Dealing with Kayaking Injuries

Kayaking, as a whole, has become much safer over the past couple of decades. Safety equipment has improved, new techniques have been developed for effectively navigating out of difficult situations, and public awareness surrounding the importance of practicing responsibility has increased. However, this doesn’t mean that kayaking or whitewater rafting is without risk. Any time you’re at the mercy of a natural body of water, you have to be prepared for anything. With that said, let’s take a look at some common kayaking injuries and how to deal with them for a safe, speedy recovery.

How to Respond to These Four Injuries

Some of these injuries are brought on as a result of repetitive motion, while others can occur in an instant. Regardless of the cause, it’s important to deal with them sooner rather than later


  • Dental injuries. Believe it or not, dental injuries can occur while kayaking. In most reported cases, the injury involves two kayakers in close proximity to each other (typically both in the same kayak). Teeth can be chipped or knocked out by swinging paddles. If a tooth is knocked out and there’s significant bleeding, you should attempt to find a dentist as soon as possible. If it’s only a chip or a small crack, you may wait to meet with a dentist to find out whether a porcelain veneer is needed.
  • Lower back strain. The typical kayak paddling technique involves torso rotation that’s initiated from the hips. Because this movement requires you to lean ever so slightly forward, the lower part of your spine is at an increased risk of becoming strained. These strains typically occur after hours of paddling or chronic overuse of the back muscles. If you have ice, you’ll want to place it on your back as soon as possible to reduce swelling and pain. You’ll also need to stop paddling, and give your back a few days of rest. Returning to kayaking prematurely may make the injury worse.
  • Rotator cuff tear. Aggressive paddling with weak shoulders could potentially lead to shoulder pain or rotator cuff injuries. The rotator cuff, which is made up of a group of muscles and tendons that connect the shoulder blade to the upper arm, is heavily involved in a kayaker’s normal motions and can be compromised by poor paddling mechanics. Rotator cuff injuries take a while to heal and are typically discovered when soreness doesn’t go away after many days or weeks. If you tear your rotator cuff, you may even have to have surgery. You should see a specialist for a proper diagnosis.


  • Carpal tunnel syndrome. Extremely active kayakers may be at risk of contracting carpal tunnel syndrome. This injury occurs when the median nerve in the wrist is injured or compromised. The result is pain, numbness, or tingling in the thumb, index, middle, or ring finger. Carpal tunnel syndrome usually develops over a long period of time and may go unnoticed at first. However, if you do suspect it, you should see a wrist specialist as soon as possible. Advanced procedures are now commonplace and can heal carpal tunnel syndrome with little trouble. You’ll have to avoid kayaking, and other activities that involve your wrist, for a few weeks or months.

Be Safe on the Water

As mentioned previously, kayaking is a relatively safe sport. However, you must respect your surroundings, and understand when you’ve reached your physical limitations. Always carry the appropriate safety equipment, and never do anything to put your body in harm’s way. On the off chance that you’re ever injured while kayaking, keep these tips in mind, and you’ll increase your chances of having a quick recovery.