Which are the most common injuries in archery?

Like any other activity, if archery is not practiced correctly, it can lead us to suffer some lesions. Which are the most common injuries in archery that can arise when we are practicing?

Although archery is not a contact sport and, thus, there’s no risk of suffering heavy injuries, there might be some muscle pain due to various factors. The most common factors are improper pre-warming exercises or trying to shoot an arrow without a proper technique. The most common injuries that may arise when practicing archery are Rotator cuff injuries, muscle and tendon strains (neck and back commonly), and some muscle bruises and contusions. Another thing that may cause severe injuries is an incorrect choice of your draw weight.

In order to avoid having to suffer any pain from such a great sport and remove the joy of it, I did some research to which are the most common injuries, the reasons for those injuries to appear, how to treat them so they go away as quickly as possible, and some stretching exercises to avoid them to happen. A very important thing to take into account is to do proper warm-up exercises before start shooting. You can see here a great, easy, and quick warm-up routine.

Most common injuries in archery

Several injuries can arise when we are practicing archery, either doing target archery, hunting, or any other type or archery discipline. I’ve been doing some research about this topic to avoid being hurt myself.  Below I share with you a brief list of the most common lesions and injuries in archery:

Rotator cuff injuries

This is by far the most common injury in archery (if not the only one) that might appear. The scapula (or shoulder blade) is the bone that connects the clavicle with the upper arm (humerus). The set of muscles that intertwine around the scapula is commonly called the rotator cuff. A lesion in this part of the body appears in sports that require movements with the arm raised (like volleyball, handball, swimming, archery, etc.). Repeating the arm-raining process too many times may result in a rotator cuff injury. This affection appears gradually. First, it starts with a small annoyance in the shoulder but does not interfere with the practice. If we continue with the activity, this annoyance will escalate to increasing pain and, most probably, losing strength in that arm. A bad movement of the shoulder could also cause an impingement of the tendon between shoulder bones joints. This is one of the most common shoulder pains of the rotator cuff. Here the tendon can be pinched by the shoulder blade and the upper arm when we raise the arm. If this injury is not treated properly, it could lead to a rupture of the tendon tissue.

Why do they appear

During any physical practice, either on a sport or just working, we may demand too much from our muscles and tendons. If we put too much strain on the shoulder tendons, it can cause an injury on the rotator cuff. This kind of injuries mostly appears when we try to lift something too heavy. In the case of archery, there is no heavyweight. But, since we have to have the arm raised during the aiming phase, if we add up all the times we rise the arm during a day of shooting, the torque that the bow does to the arm can be stressful to the shoulder.

Another very common factor that can cause this type of injury is age. The shoulder is a part of the body that has poor blood circulation and, thus, very low oxygen delivery. This causes the tendons to degenerate and wears off during the years. So, if you are practicing archery and are an aged person, be careful. Stretch rigorously before and after shooting. And take it easy because, since this part of the body has little blood supply, if you suffer an injury it will also take much time to heal.

As a last comment, sometimes bad form can be the cause of an injury. Using the wrong muscles, or relying too much on the muscles instead of on the bone structure may cause some muscular and/or tendon tensions. This can be very common when people learn archery on their own, or they practice in their backyard (if you are interested in how to do it, go here). Look here some cool tips to improve both your form and your aim. It might help you to correct your form and prevent a lesion.


For treating rotator cuff injuries it is important the intervention of a physiotherapist. In nearly all cases it’s necessary a rehabilitation program. During this program, the physiotherapists train and test several factors, such as the strength and control of the shoulder, its mobility. In the late stages of the rehabilitation, the patient will experiment with more sport-related activities, like throwing, or bow drawing movements, to train the muscles again on that particular practice. 

In some extreme cases, if the rehabilitation does not work, the patient should appeal to surgery, but it shouldn’t be considered a quick fix. It’s probable that after surgery that kind of sports can’t be played again and, even if you can, you won’t be doing it at the same performance. So, take care of your cuff.

Since the shoulder joint is a region with poor blood flow, a piece of good advice to treat shoulder sores is to apply heat to the affected zone. You can use bottles with hot water or heat lamps to keep the region warm. Another good advice is to massage the zone. This will also warm up the muscles and tendons, and thus favor the blood flow. 


The most common way for muscles or tendons to be injured is by pushing them beyond their natural limits. Luckily it’s quite easy to take care of this issue: stretching. I don’t know you, but when I did PE in High School, I hated when the instructor insisted on doing some stretching before doing sports. I thought it was a waste of time, I just wanted to start doing something. Now, several (with capital S) years later, I understand his insistence. Stretching isn’t just one more thing to do when doing sports, such as taking the balls off the bag or putting the cones in the field. Stretching is very very important. It helps us to give our muscles and tendons more flexibility, so they can increase their range of movement. By doing so, when we practice sports, now the range of our muscles is greater, and the same movement we did before will be done with less effort, and the muscles will stress less, reducing the chance of injury. So, don’t forget to stretch your muscles, both before and after the practice. Your muscles and tendons will thank you. (See this article for easy exercises to stretch before shooting).

Besides stretching, you can help your shoulders to work more comfortably, just by strengthening all the shoulder, upper back, and chest muscles. In order to do this, you may want to go to the gym but, if you don’t want to spend money just for strengthening the shoulders or, like me, aren’t much a gym fan, you can do some quick and easy exercises to gain strength in those parts of the body. 

Disclaimer: All that is written in this post, or any other post of this blog, is from the voice of an archery enthusiast. Please consult a professional before doing any physical activity, especially working out to strengthen any part of the body. I don’t claim any responsibility for doing exercises at home unsupervised, and consequently leading to injuries.

If you want to know more about stretching exercises, please check this post, where they explain to you three stretching exercises that are excellent when practicing archery (this post does not belong to archerypassion.com).

Minor injuries: Some muscle bruises and contusions

If we shoot an arrow properly, it’s very difficult to get injured. However, sometimes after a shooting session, some bruises might appear. Don’t panic, it’s nothing to fear. If we don’t use any protection on the bow arm, it’s possible that, when we release the string, it slaps over our forearm. Moreover, there’re occasions when, even when using arm protection, the string can slap, too, especially if the protection is misplaced. As I said earlier, this is nothing to worry about. If the bruises appear, just apply cold (like an ice pack) and it will eventually disappear.

Indirect injuries: Draw weight

Draw weight is not an injury by itself, but it’s something that we can’t overlook. In a summarized way, the draw weight is how much potential energy the bow can accumulate. This potential energy is related to how much effort we have to put to draw the bow.

When we start shooting, and we want to buy our first bow, it’s very common from some people to think that the heavier the bow (as in draw weight, not in actual weight), the better the experience because it will reach further. That’s right … if you have the necessary strength to draw that weight to shoot that far. Othe people think that you must have one only bow for life, and it’s better to buy a heavier one, and then get used to it over time. Maybe for some people, this would work, but seriously, you’ll be risking too much by doing so. If you do this, it’ll be highly probable that you can’t handle that weight to draw properly, and won’t enjoy the experience. Moreover, you’ll have high chances to get serious injuries.

Please, share with us your experiences with injuries in archery, or any other lesions you’ve heard of by posting in the comment section. Feel free to explore our other posts. Hope they’ll help you.  Happy shooting and I hope to see you around!


2 responses to “Which are the most common injuries in archery?”

  1. Aleksandar Avatar

    Since we are talking about injuries I would like to mention my problem with injury and maybe some tips.I bought #50 recurve and I do feel comfortable with the drawing weight but my problem is my left hand (bow arm).
    I had an injury 3 months ago,where I dislocated thumb joint.It heals good but every time I hold the bow and pull the string I feel pain in the thumb joint area of my left hand.Any tips about holding the bow?

    1. Luciano Darriba Avatar
      Luciano Darriba

      Hi, Aleksandar. Thanks for bringing your questions here. I’ll try to answer them as completely as possible.
      First of all, it’s a pity that you got injured. It’s very annoying trying to shoot with it (without mentioning the pain).
      I don’t know exactly how you did that injury, but I assume that you did it shooting, am I right? If that’s the case, I’m 99% confident that the cause was a combination of two factors: a misplacement of the hand and considerably heavy draw weight (I also assume that those 50# are the nominal factory value of the limbs, measured at a 28″ draw length). In the case that your draw length is more (or less) than 28″, your real draw weight will be higher (or lower) than those 50#. In any case, it’s a relatively heavy bow.
      In case you misplaced the handle of the riser too close to the thumb’s joint, together with the high draw weight, that probably caused the dislocated thumb. If you continue shooting, it will keep hurting if you don’t let it heal.

      My tips for this are two things.

      1) Bandage your hand and finger, and get an appointment with a physician to better check you.
      2) If you already have done that, try not to shoot for 15-20 days (if you can hold it for one month, much better, but I know it is not easy). If you don’t make a full stop for a couple of weeks, your joint won’t heal completely, and it will continue hurting each time you shoot.
      3) Once that period passes and you feel your joint heals, it’s time to return to the field. If your budget allows you to, perhaps you should find a lighter bow (let’s say 34#-36#). In the forthcoming months, when you are fully recovering, it’s advisable to shoot with a lighter bow to prevent your joint hurt again. When you fully recover, you can return carefully to your 50# if you feel that 34#-36# is too low for you.
      4) Check the correct placement of the riser. In this post, you can find a quick explanation of how to put your hand. As the article was on a different topic, it’s not fully explained (with this question, you triggered me to write a new post about how to grab the bow properly). The riser should be resting against the pad below your thumb, in your palm, not in the joint.

      If you follow this, you will surely heal well and can continue shooting in no time. If you don’t let your injury heal, it can become chronic. However, please consult a physician. I’m just an archer, not a doctor (well, in fact, I’m a Doctor, but in Astronomy, so I can’t heal you unless you are a planet, hehe, bad pun).

      I hope this was helpful. If you didn’t do so, I invite you to subscribe to the newsletter to know when my “How to grab the bow” article is out, and many other updates. Feel free to continue asking as many times as you want.

      Keep safe and good arrows!!!!!!!

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