I remember the day when fly fishing was an old man’s sport. It seems that day is closer than I thought. Although I expected to grow old fishing I hadn’t anticipated injuries that would occur as a result of fishing. I’ve spent a lot of time this year, much more than usual, throwing big streamers in large rivers and double hauling lots of line on open water. Following my first couple of trips I noticed the elbow in my casting arm had some pain radiating around my elbow and my head hurt around my temples and eyes. After the first warning of pain I did what any serious angler would do and suffered through the pain in pursuit of what’s really important, fishing and having a few beers (not my health). It took about 6 more full days of fishing in the course of 4 weeks and I was completely out of the game. The pain at this point was from my elbow all the way down my forearm. I had a hard time picking anything up and even writing with a pen or typing at my desk. When whining about the pain, someone mentioned I probably had tendinitis, more commonly known as tennis elbow (and a slight hangover causing the headache). As I started my internet search to find out more I was surprised how many others had the same problem and there was actually such a thing as “fishing elbow”. Who knew the thing that relaxes me and brings me joy could actually cause pain and injury.
I did some research for a way to treat the problem and of course I got exactly what I didn’t want to hear: Stop fishing. Tendinitis is an irritation or inflammation of the tendons in your elbow. Although there are many braces and straps to relieve the pain, continuing to abuse your elbow could lead to tendon tears, cortisone shots and surgeries. In my research I was surprised to see that there are tournament bass fishing anglers who have undergone surgeries on both elbows to remedy the pain and continue their careers casting.
It seems the best way to prevent a problem is stretching prior to activity, and some recommended following the same regimen major league pitchers use. I found some instruction videos and I was expecting something a lot less like Shaolin Kung Fu meets the robot dance moves, but if it saves me some pain and gives me fishing it was worth a shot. I’ve been stretching for a few minutes the night before a trip and the morning of. Mostly in the privacy of my own house so I don’t look like I’m doing a secret hand shake with myself. I’ll be honest it’s not the full 5 minute gambit I viewed in the video; I picked exercises that I felt gave me the most benefit. So far it seems to be helping. After a 5 hours day of throwing long casts on a lake the other weekend, I had no pain.
It seems early detection and prevention is the ticket to beating fishermen’s elbow. And although it’s hard to add something new to your pre-fishing routine, it may save you from having to sit out the next trip. And no one wants to ride the pine.