July 17th, 2006

Carpal Tunnel
By James Castwell


Here we (I) go again. Someday, I promise you I will write something on here that actually has some answers and not just questions. At least, I will try very, very hard. This has to do with casting. Big surprise. How it came about is somewhat interesting, I hope. I hope so, because I'm going to tell it right now.

You probably know by now that my wife has had some pain troubles due to some surgery and a few nerves that got injured. After going to a few doctors we lately encountered one who is a specialist on nerves and in the initial exam asked her how long she has had carpel tunnel syndrom. Great. Just what she needed to hear. Something else going to heck. An appointment was made to return for a exacting test of the condition. We had that today.

She has it in both wrists and has the braces which she will sleep with. That may be enough time for it to heal. Two months at least. Here is the good news though. We are getting to know the doctor, actually a youngish middle aged chap with a fourteen year old son. Interested in learning fly fishing. Oh Boy. Especially fly casting. I told him that I always make it a point to offer casting lessons to any doctor who is treating us but I also make it a point to charge at least double what anyone else would pay. We seem to get along just fine; we understand each other.

Some other good from all of this too is, I nailed him down on a subject that I have been interested in for several years. That is of course, does it matter at all how you hold your fly rod when casting. Now before you say well, "Herkimer Schmidflap' holds his fly rod that way," or "I saw Jake Fanortney do it this way," I agree. I am not saying any grip is wrong. If I did I would flood my email box, and not be safe in dark alleys. Abercrombie Papoofnick may hold any way he wants to. It probably will not matter. Probably.

And there is the hook. I have wanted to ask a real nerve specialist about this matter but was not willing to make an appointment, or pay the price of one, just to ask questions. Here was my chance and I jumped for it. After all, if I was going to teach him and his son how to cast, shouldn't I know the right way to cast? "Right way" you ask? Yup, thumb on top or off to the side a bit. Like I'm going to call up and say, "Hey Steve, yer doing it all wrong. Put your thumb on top of the handle!" Not likely. Besides he's bigger than me too, not to mention younger.

What the doc said basically was this. With your thumb on top of the cork the wrist movement is not as likely to lead or contribute to any complications of carpal tunnel syndrom. Simple as that. If you roll your thumb off to the side some, as many of the worlds best casters do for a grip, that is very similar to throwing a baseball you are more likely to lead or contribute to a problem.

Perhaps if you already have a job that is giving you some trouble and you cast with your thumb off to the side you might consider switching to the thumb on top grip. Remember I said perhaps. In no way do I want you to think that one way or the other will or can cause or lead to the malady. I suppose it can or could but, I think your elbow will wear out first.

Many of you have a sore right thumb from casting but that's from putting a lot of punch into the cast. If you want a long cast you have to put something into it. An interesting side note here. I put on one of her wrist-braces and held a fly rod with it. I can still bend my wrist if I have my thumb on top, but not if I roll my thumb off to the side. You casting instructors may want to put one of those (probably one of yours) carpal tunnel braces on your students if they insist on 'breaking their wrist.' It should stop them cold as long as they keep the thumb on the side.

So to wrap this all up. Does casting cause carpal tunnel? I don't think it is probable. A guy would have to do a heck of a lot of it to be a problem. Could it cause or lead to it if he was casting badly and spent the rest of his time at a key board? Well, maybe, or should he put his thumb on top and try really, really hard to cast just like the great J Castwell?

Aw hey, ya gotta be kidding, right? ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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