Wrist Supports: To Wear or not to Wear?

Wrist supports are one of the most popular bowling accessories.  Wrist supports come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials with each boasting different benefits.  Most bowlers usually attest to the fact that it keeps their wrist stable throughout the shot and gives them more consistency, revs and power at the pins.
The Jesus Uses a Wrist Support!

The Jesus Uses a Wrist Support

Why I Don’t Recommend Them. With all these benefits it’s surprising to most people that I rarely if ever recommend them to anyone.  Allow me to explain.  Bowling at the high level requires the bowler to be skilled enough to change the ball roll depending on the conditions on the lane.  This is done by manipulating the wrist position not only up and down, but side to side as well.  Keeping your wrist “locked in” to one position really limits the required versatility to perform on a vast array of conditions.  While bowling on a typical house shot you might be successful, a more difficult sport condition with multiple lane transitions will leave you wondering what could have been.

Lessons from the pros. “But PBA member Mike Scroggin’s is seen on television bowling with the latest and greatest wrist device.  What do you have to say about that?”  Yes I’d agree Scroggin’s definitely uses a wrist aid, but looking at the big picture he is definitely the exception and not the rule.  The vast majority of the modern greats do not wear wrist devices.  Think Walter Ray Williams Jr., Norm Duke, Wes Mallott, Chris Barnes, Tommy Jones, Parker Bohn III, etc.  None of them use wrist devices in competition.  In fact going through the list of the 50 PBA all time greats I don’t see any modern player that uses a wrist support.

Weak wrist? A lot of female bowlers as well as some male bowlers lack the strength in the wrist to get the reaction they want.  If that is the case then there should be some serious considerations on starting a strength training program.  Using a wrist support in this instance is akin to applying a band aid, rather than addressing the problem.  In a matter of months a smart training program will give you all the strength you need to manipulate the ball roll, not to mention the added benefits of being fit and healthy.

Youth Considerations. When working with youth I really advocate holding off on using a wrist aid and allowing the athlete to develop the necessary strength over time.  Once a youth bowler starts using a wrist device it’s rare to see them ever stop.  It becomes a crutch and prevents their wrist from developing the strength they’ll need to take the device off.

Exceptions. While I said I rarely recommend wrist devices there still are times when they can be useful.

  • wristpainWrist Supports work great as a training aid.  Getting your hands on an adjustable wrist support will allow you to practice the feel of different releases.  A lot of the wrist devices only allow for one release, so make sure it is adjustable and see just how many different ball rolls you can do.
  • Pain or an injury in the wrist or forearm can prevent someone from bowling all together.  We see this a lot with senior players and even some younger players for a variety of reasons.  If not wearing a wrist support would prevent someone from bowling then obviously go ahead and have at it.
  • A recreational player that has no intentions of ever competing at a high level could certainly benefit from using one
If you are reading this and regretting the purchase of a stationary wrist aid don’t fret.  If it’s leather wrapped they make excellent chew toys for your dog.

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