Dragon boating is a big sport in Singapore. There are races all year round from the international DBS Marina Regatta in May/June  to a 10km race in September.

Is dragon boating bad for my back?

It is true that lower back injuries, together with shoulder injuries, is the most common injured site associated with dragon boating in Singapore.

However, risk of injury for dragon boating as a sport is significantly lower than other sports such as soccer at 17.2 injuries per 1000 athlete exposures and 10.2 injuries/1000 athlete exposures for men’s wrestling. The risk of injury for dragon boating is 3.82 per thousand athlete exposures.

Bottom line: While most injuries associated with dragon boating occur at the lower back, the risk of injury is very small compared to other sports.

Is dragon boating good for my back?

The short answer is yes.

Dragon boating is a sport that require trunk flexion, extension, and rotation. At competitions, the stroke rate can go up to as high as 80 to 90 strokes a minute.

Furthermore, over half of the injuries sustained during dragon boating are overuse injuries. These injuries can be prevented with proper programming and strength training.

How can I prevent overuse injuries?

Tendinopathy: Probably one of the most common overuse injuries. Tendinopathy is an umbrella term that includes other injuries such as tendinitis and tendinosis. Common examples include tennis elbow, patella or Achilles tendinopathy.

In tendinopathy, injury as a result of excessive loading of the tendon and it is usually associated with a mechanical breakdown of the tendon itself.

Rehabilitative exercise is probably the best treatment approach for tendon disorders. Most rehabilitative programs for tendon pathology will include exercises that are isometric and/or eccentric in nature. Heavy slow resistance is also a popular rehabilitation approach for tendon injuries.

To prevent tendinopathy, make sure you are training at a level that does not exceed your tendon capacity. If you are looking to increase your training load, spread it over sufficient period of time to avoid unnecessary stress to your tendon.

A gradual increase in training load will allow the tendon to adapt to the stress, and reduce risk of injury.

Poor technique and inadequate sports equipment are also linked to tendon injury.

Stress fracture occurs when there is repetitive stress going through a bone. The repetitive stress causes an increase in activity from cells that breakdowns bone compared to the cells that synthesize new bone formation, which process results in a temporary weakening of the bone.

If the physical stress continues for prolonged period of time, a stress reaction or a stress fraction occurs.

Again, adequate load management would prevent stress reactions from happening.

Where can I dragon boat in Singapore?

Most dragon boat clubs in Singapore paddle along Kallang River. There are both local and expat clubs you can join.

For local clubs, check out SAFRA Dragon Boat Club. SAFRA Dragon Boat Club is one of the oldest in Singapore and they started way back in 1979. They train on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, as well as Sunday mornings.

For expat clubs, check out AustCham Paddle Club or German Dragons. Membership of expat dragon boat clubs are open to Singaporeans as well.

AustCham also offers outrigger canoeing at Sentosa.

Why did you start to dragon boat?

The truth is I did dragon boating back in Perth with the intention of strengthening my back muscles.

I paddled with the Indian Ocean Dragon Boat Club when I was still at chiropractic student at Murdoch University. We trained 3 days a week along the Swan River. It was a fantastic experience because we often get the company of dolphins.

During my final year at chiropractic school, our club travelled to Hong Kong for the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival. It was a fantastic experience to get to meet paddlers from all over the world. This was when I get to the German Dragons team from Singapore.

When I moved back to Singapore, I switched to outrigger canoeing with AustCham. Unfortunately, the time constrains no longer allow me to continue paddling.