Many of you might think that, since archery is a sport that requires a lot of standing still, there won’t be any injuries or accidents. Unfortunately that’s not my experience! There are several injuries that can result from bad movement or not warming up and stretching before shooting.
Although no one will foul you, like in basketball or soccer, a lot of archers have been hit by their own bows. How do I know it? Because I am one of those people.
What is string slap?
This is something that happens to beginners and experienced archers, we all get the occasional slap on the forearm by the string after release.
This is what we call string slap. It happens when you release the arrow and the string hits you while the arrow is being launched.
You can see several people with horrible marks in their forearms for this. In fact, a quick search of Google images “Bow String Slap”, you’ll see horrible bruises and with terrible lengths. That’s because the string keeps going all the way in less than a second, and your skin isn’t able to stop it.
Normally I would place a picture here of myself showing how it happens, but in this instance, I’m not getting hit by the string just for a short video! I haven’t had a bruise from the string in several months and I plan on staying like that. Here we will review some tricks to prevent those horrible marks.
Is it painful?
Yes. It is very painful and it gets worse as your bow becomes stronger.
When I was starting in archery I got several of those. With the academy bow, which was not strong, there wasn’t really much of a problem.
My sleeve was able to stop the hit. But once I started using my recurve bow with 30 pounds of strength, a string slab starts to become painful. Have you seen those videos on Youtube were people play a contest where they slap each other for several rounds? That’s what it felt like on my arm!
To be fair, it’s not something that will hurt for days, it’s just the pain of the moment that sometimes liners for a few hours. The bruise stays with you much longer and is a constant reminder to rotate your elbow to the proper position when shooting.
Training to avoid string slap
This is something more experienced archers will do, almost without thinking.
Rotating your elbow outwards without moving your shoulder. This position which feels a bit unnatural for us, almost guarantees that it won’t be in the way of the string.
It’s pretty simple, place your hand on a flat surface. Then rotating your elbow outside. I’ve taken a couple of photos to try and explain what is going on:
By placing your arm in this position, your string shouldn’t touch you. The only thing is, it’s not natural for us to be in that position because of the pressure on your arm. It’s your responsibility to try and overcome the discomfort or you’ll learn the hard way.
I learnt by getting hit several times.
That’s when my coach told me to start practicing that movement on a wall every morning before my archery training.
At least until you stop getting hit and you mind is off your arm. Once you are no longer thinking about it, you know it’s already in your natural position,
Equipment to avoid string slap
No matter how much you train, every once in a while we all get distracted and get git by the string.
Just like soccer players use shin protection, we use Arm Guards to protect our arms.
Down here you can see my arm guard and where in the arm it is positioned. One quick fact, several pieces of archery equipment are made specifically for right handed people or left handed people.
In the case of the arm guard, they are also made for both, but it doesn’t really matter 99% of the times. The only thing that will change if you buy the wrong guard is that the brand logo or design will be backwards.
For example, I made a mistake with mine and bought a right hand guard when I’m a lefty, thankfully my guard design is the same either way, the only thing backwards is the logo.
Now, whilst the guard will keep you safe from any injuries from the string, every shot you take with your arm in the wrong position is one step close to getting used to that wrong position.
So, make an effort, train to get the proper standing posture and bow arm position to prevent accidents.
For example, if you are wearing long sleeves, or if it’s a cold day and you’re wearing jackets or hoodies; it can cause the string to get trapped in the clothes causing it to alter the shot and the arrow strength and trajectory.
What can happen to me if I don’t do anything?
Well first things first, you’ll have horrible bruises on your arm every week.
That will definitely diminish your strength to hold the bow with time, and it will affect your performance in competitions, especially long lasting competitions with elimination rounds where archers are expected to shot several rounds.
Another thing that will happen is that, like I said, you’ll adopt a poor posture for your shooting.
Truth is that in most sports, having the wrong position with arms or legs, tends to affect the sport but can be overcome, what can’t be changed is the impact on your health.
There is no concrete proof but having strange positions for shooting can cause injuries.
For example, in basketball, a bad position when shooting not only affects the shot but also can cause injuries in your knees and shoulders. The same applies to archery, the wrong position for your arm can affect your shoulders and back.
Does string slap affect my shot?
When hitting your skin, it normally doesn’t, that part of your arm is almost at the end of the string path. The arrow is normally already out of the string by then.
In my case, every time I have hit my arm, my shot wasn’t really altered. Unless of course, I was supposed to miss and the hit made me be right on target!
Whilst the above is true if you have short sleeves, if instead you have long sleeves, it is almost certain that the string slap will affect your shot.
If you wear long sleeves, the string will get trapped in the clothes when it’s relaxing as the shot is released. This could make the arrow fall or even go in a different direction and off target. Not to the person next to you, but out of line where you were aiming.
Many archers choose to not wear sleeves and others prefer to use slim shirts such as lycra at colder times of year so that the material isn’t baggy and doesn’t risk catching the bow string.
Is there anything else that can happen to me with the string?
Actually, there is.
The string not only can it hit your arm on the way to releasing the arrow. But it can also hit your chest. And being very specific, it can hit you hard on your nipple.
Depending on if you’re a right or left handed archer it will hit you in a different part of the chest. If you are left handed, it could hit you in the right nipple; if you’re right handed, on the left.
Being hit in the chest is also very painful, I think, for me, that it is more painful than it is to be hit in the arm.
If you watched the Olympics and many other World Archery competitions, you’ll noticed that almost all archers use a small guard on half of the chest, like a little piece of armour.
That is called a chest guard, not very original but you get what it does, specifically, it prevents your string from catching the clothes. If the string catches clothes from your chest, it will alter your shot. That’s why many skinny people use them not only for competitions, but for every shot they take to make sure their clothes are not trapped in the draw.
There is one more part of your body that could get hit by the string, but it is not something normal like the arm or the chest, which are just a matter of staying focused and keeping your body in the proper position to avoid.
The string can also hit your nose. But for that to happen, you have to place your knocking point after your nose.
Normally, every academy teaches to place the string right in front of the nose as knocking point. But some people like to position it like they see in movies and place the string after it.
That is the moment when your nose is in the way of the string, and the chances for it to be hit are really big.
My first coach told me that on the first day to prevent anyone from getting hit there.
I don’t know about you, I haven’t been hit on the nose by the string, but I have being hit by several other items like soccer balls and trust me, I do not wish to be hit there by a bow string
Will I lose points or anything like that?
No, don’t worry about it.
No referees consider any hit to your arm, chest or nose to be something like a foul.
As long as you don’t cross the shooting line when you’re not supposed to, the referee doesn’t really care how you shot and your standing position.
Getting hit also won’t affect the score in any way, but like I said before, it could affect your shot in some situations, which could change your final score.
I hope you enjoyed reading, and please don’t be scared of the possibility of getting hit by a string slap if you’re new to archery, you can get hit at any sport. Even at chess you could trip on your own chair while getting up!! As we’ve discussed there are several ways to prevent the likely injuries by training your standing position and using guards like the one for the chest and the arm.
I strongly recommend you practice every once in a while with those extra pieces of the equipment to get used to them even if you don’t plan on using them all the time. I would also to always use them when in competitions.
It’s better to be safe than sorry, but most importantly, I strongly encourage all of you, that if you’re getting hit, work on your posture. Ask your coach to watch you, ask a friend, practice in front of a mirror or record yourself with a phone.
We are not always aware of our own bad posture and positioning until we get hit by the string.
If you do, work on it as hard as you can to prevent it from becoming a custom. Don’t let your body get used to having the wrong posture.
Remember, it’s what you do in the training, without the audience, that will put you in the spotlight. It is your work and your hours of posture practice what will get you in the best place to become a great archer.
Happy shooting everyone!