Every four years, interest in the little-known sport of curling seems to spike. One player hurls a stone down a sheet of ice toward a target that looks like a giant bullseye. Two others “sweep” the ice as the stone travels, helping regulate its distance and direction. And a fourth team member—the skip—stands behind the target calling the shots.
“It’s a sport that’s team oriented, which I love, because all four players have to work together to achieve a common goal” says Meredith Bassett, DPT, Physical Therapy Supervisor at TRIA Woodbury. “My husband started curling after watching in on the Olympics in 2010. When I moved to Minnesota in 2013, I knew I had to try it. I was immediately hooked!”
While curling is often thought of as a sport with a low risk for injury, the lunge position used to throw the stone down the ice can lead to low back and knee pain. “This position requires a combination of core strength and hip range of motion,” says Dr. Bassett. “If the muscles that surround the hip are tight, it can place an increased amount of stress and strain through the lumbar spine and knee.”
To help reduce your risk for injury, Dr. Bassett recommends dynamic stretching prior to the game to address hip rotation range of motion. Here are three stretches to target that area:
- Walking with hip external rotation: While walking forward, lift your leg up with your knee bent, swing it out to the side, and lower it back down. Repeat with the other leg. Complete 10 on each side.
- Hamstring stretch/straight leg kicks: Starting in a standing position, step forward with one foot and slowly kick your other leg straight forward, reaching your opposite arm toward your toes. Repeat 10 on each side.
- Hip flexor stretch: Start in half kneeling position, with one knee bent in front of your body. Keeping your abdominals engaged, shift your weight forward onto your kneeling leg, to stretch out the front of the trailing leg. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Repeat 10 on each leg.
Less experienced curlers could be at risk for another type of injury: falls. Falling backward on the ice can lead to head injuries, like concussions, and falling forward can lead to hand or wrist injuries as people try to break their fall. Proper equipment, and avoiding running on the ice (the shoes are really slippery and typically make people fall!) can reduce the risk of slipping.
Curling fun facts
- The stone, or rock, is made of a specific type of granite from Scotland and weighs between 38-44 pounds.
- A curling tournament is called a Bon Spiel.
- Mixed Doubles Curling, where teams are comprised of two players—one male and one female—will make its Olympic debut in 2018.
- The spirit of curling refers to the respect curlers show for one another. “Each game starts with introducing yourself to your opponents with a handshake, and stating ‘Good Curling!’ Afterward, it finishes again with shaking hands, and you congratulate your opponent on their successes,” says Dr. Bassett. “It fosters a very positive environment. Players are out there to have fun while getting a little bit of exercise.”
- The 2018 men’s and women’s Olympic teams are both from Minnesota. Go Team USA!
If you’re interested in giving curling a try, there are several clubs in the Twin Cities that offer Learn to Curls—clinics where you have the opportunity to try all the different parts (throwing, sweeping, strategy) and then play a short game. Dr. Bassett’s home curling club – Frogtown Curling Club – is always looking for new curlers and has leagues every night after work and on weekends.