Tuesday, August 8, 2017

No more duct tape

My tennis elbow has gone. Lateral Epicondylitis is very  common among Laser sailors especially and tends to get worse at regattas and for many it never goes away.  Sailors applying bandages, velcro straps and duct tape are common sights in the change room.  There are various theories. It could be caused by hanging off the mainsheet when hiking, or it could be the sheeting action and many blame the Laser’s heavy weather helm. 

Despite still sailing two to three days a week on my Aero, my Lateral Epicondylitis has now cured itself. It must be one or a combination of these things.

the black Aero sheet is much easier to hold
  • The Aero has to be sailed very flat. In 18+ knots and like all sail boats, the main sheet has to be trimmed constantly. It is much thicker than the regular Laser sheet and can be easily held with no gloves or regular yacht gloves. So much kinder on the hands
  • The weather helm is very light, the sheeting arm gets a rest on the next tack.

Having sailed both boats, my experience is that the Laser’s weather helm is the main culprit, my steering arm hurt the most. But the thicker Aero mainsheet significantly reduces the need to grip a skinny rope and this also reduces tension in the forearm.

Steve Cockerill says the Laser causes tennis elbow. Steve was interviewed by Yachts and Yachting following his win in the 2017 Aero Worlds. (full article)

Laser rudder rake causes heavy weather helm

Mark: You've come from a Laser sailing background. How comfortable is the Aero compared to the Laser?
Steve: I would say massively comfortable. When I was sailing at the Laser Masters' Europeans earlier this year my hips were giving me gyp, but I've just finished the Aero Worlds and I'm not in any pain. I'm tired, my knees are tired, my joints are tired and my back is tired, but I haven't got tennis elbow from steering upwind and I haven't got any pain in my hips. When you get in the right place and sit further back you get a nice, even amount of pressure on the back of your calves against the side deck, and with hike pads on you can really give yourself a nice hiking position. It really is very ergonomically designed for hiking and I've got to say I like it.

Unfortunately not everyone has access to an Aero and if you are still sailing a Laser and suffering tennis elbow here is one approach from a renown AUS Laser masters champion.

"I had bad tennis elbow a while ago. I got it from hanging off the mainsheet. It was so bad I couldn't even carry a coffee cup.  However I cured myself after about 6 weeks. Here is how:

I first received advice to seek a physio, tennis elbow is often caused by muscles higher up, ie not at the elbow. So I asked a doctor friend. He said he didn't know because he is a gynecologist :) but he did give me a vital clue that it is just inflammation.

Therefore no need to see a physio because I then knew how to solve it myself.

I noticed that it hurt when I lifted my straight arm up horizontal. So I started exercising to cure that by rotating my straight arms in small horizontal circles several times per day. Also I used duct tape on my forearm to keep the muscles from expanding. Plus I lie on the floor on my back straight legged and arms stretched above my head. I roll from side to side and I can hear the muscles and tendons cracking.

So I did those exercises plus duct tape when I sailed. I was still sailing 4 times per week but after three weeks of doing the exercises plus duct tape solved the problem and now my tennis elbow is 100% cured.

I still do those arm rotation exercise morning, evening, before, between, after sailing and I still use duct tape on my forearms.

So now I exercise the root cause. My arms and shoulder still hurt after a hard race but no tennis elbow. The rotation exercises crunch my back muscles which cures my sore arm and shoulder within an hour after racing.  

You could also ask a gynecologist just for completeness :)"


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