Safety Tips: Bowling

Bowling seems to be one of our favorite recreational sports. However there are individuals who took up this sport as their career.

Although we classify it as a non-contact sports, it is still possible to get injured if you are not familiar with the game. Carrying the ball on a slippery surface could predispose to injury. The bowling environment possesses two major hazards, which are falling down and being hit. Knowing the proper instructions in bowling alley can prevent the risk of injury. Other injuries that can happen is what is called ‘Bowler’s tendonitis”. This is caused by an overuse injury to the tendon that’s inserted in the inner aspect of the elbow’s bony prominence (medial epicondyle).

Bowler’s tendonitis image from

There is inflammation and series of tiny tears to the tendon caused by repetitive movements and stress to the tendon insertion at the bone. It is often seen in competitive, youth and senior citizens bowler. Frequent competition and high intensity training predispose competitive bowlers to this condition. A relative rest in between training could prevent this.

There are a few factors that predispose to this condition:

  • Poor bowling biomechanics
    • A forceful unnatural movement beyond our body capability will put some stress to the affected part. An attempt to generate more ball motion will put them to do excessive forces in many directions such as twisting, flipping and rotating the fingers, wrist, elbow and shoulders.
    • This is usually seen in younger age group in which the desire to produce more ball motion is higher.
      Correct biomechanic for bowling image from
  • Poor physical condition
    • Lack of strength and flexibility of a muscle and joint predisposes to injury. Weak and stiff joints are highly susceptible to risk of injury.
  • High repetition
    • Highly repetitive movement in this sport demands a proper biomechanics in order to prevent injury. Coaches should slot in rest between trainings as this allow the affected body part to recover optimally.
  • Poor ball fit
    • An improperly fit finger to the bowling holes will put some strain to your fingers and wrist. Difficulty in releasing the ball comfortably and effortlessly warrants an extra advise from the professionals.
    • That’s why some individuals prefer to purchase their own bowling ball.

These are some guidelines that can be followed on proper playing techniques to reduce injury:

  • Pick up a ball with both hands
    • Pick up a ball with both your hands and don’t put your fingers in the holes until you have lifted the ball.
    • You will strain your fingers if you pick the ball using your fingers. If the ball is extra heavy, it might predispose to further injury to your hands.
  • Use proper bowling shoes
    • Always use proper bowling shoes either rented from the bowling center or by purchasing one.
    • Bowling shoes have special nonslip surface so that it won’t be slippery when you step on the alley and also protects the varnish on the bowling floor.
    • Wearing your own shoes will make it sticky when you step on the floor and could cause you to fall forward when trying to throw the ball.
    • Don’t apply any powder or ashes to help you slide.
      Bowling shoes image from
  • Don’t step into the lane
    • There is a horizontal line and it is called the foul line. This line indicates that you should not stop beyond it because the coating on the bowling floor is different which is oily to make the ball roll easily.
    • Stepping into the lane will cause you to slip and fall down. Do not attempt to remove any ball in the lane. Just notify the bowling staff to do it for you.
  • Wait for the balls to return
    • You should wait for the ball to be returned from the mechanized machine rack because reaching your hand into the rack could cause serious injuries.
    • You should not rest your hand onto the ball return rack. A ball can come back without you being aware of it.
  • Play the game with proper etiquette
    • Although bowling is a fun sport to be played, make sure you follow the regulations fixed by the bowling center.
    • Be careful with your own swing practice as you don’t want other people to be hit by your ball. Always look around before doing it.
    • Never trigger the pin-setting machine to operate if someone is working on it.
    • Never roll a ball towards the pins if someone is working on the pinsetter or if the pins are not fully exposed and ready.


  1. Clinical Sports Medicine, Peter Brukner and Karim Khan
Last Reviewed : 24 January 2014
Writer : Lt. Kol. Dr. Ridzuan b. Azmi
Accreditor : Prof. Madya Dr. Ahmad Tajuddin b. Othman