Article by Jess Clarey
Rowing is a great way to get fit and allow you to enjoy the beauty of your local river or lake.
Rowing is a fantastic sport for developing core, leg and arm strength plus all the cardiovascular benefits. Unfortunately, given the nature of the sport, it does have a reasonably high incidence of lower back and overuse injuries.
Fun Fact: Did you know that improperly supported forces approaching 1000N can be loaded through your lumbar spine if imbalances or errors in your technique are present? That’s over 100kg through your spine, every stroke!
The ribs are another area that can come under a lot of stress as a result of rowing and fractures are common to athletes who train and compete often. Unfortunately, it’s not until the athlete is in significant pain that they bring the issue up with their coach - at this point it can be too late and prolonged time off the water is inevitable. Early chest wall pain identification is key!
Rowing injuries can also come in the form of muscle strains or tendon friction injuries.
The rowing stroke is a repeated continuous cycle, from a position with the legs flexed, elbows straight to a fully extended knee position and elbow flexion with the oar handle drawn into the body. A strong back and core strength is a vital component to increase power through the stroke and avoid injury. Poor technique is common, especially in novice rowers, and unless this is rectified, injuries are almost inevitable.
Rowers should always be looking to improve the way they row to reduce their risk of injury. To avoid rowing injuries you should ensure you undertake core and strength training that will provide you with the muscular power to cope with the demands of the sport as well as a flexibility program to ensure you have the necessary range of motion to perform the stroke.
Rowing Injury Risk Factors
Some of the risk factors that can increase your risk of sustaining a rowing injury include:
- Poor technique
- Lack of fitness
- Musculoskeletal limitations
- Unsupervised resistance training
- Excessive running as part of land training.
Rowing Injury Prevention Suggestions
- Undertake a PhysioWorks Pre-Season Rowing Screening - have your biomechanics, muscle lengths and strengths assessed by an experienced physiotherapist to assess your weaknesses to prevent an injury.
- Attain a good level of general health and fitness.
- Warm up thoroughly.
- Stretching is an important part of your cool down routine.
Immediate Injury Management Advice:
- Stop immediately if an injury occurs to help prevent further damage.
- Rowing through the pain will only aggravate the injury.
- Seek prompt treatment of injury.
- Early management will mean less time away from rowing.
- Treat your soft tissue injuries (ligament sprains, muscle strains, bumps and bruises) with rest, ice, compression, elevation until you seek the advice of your health professional.
- Do not resume activity until you have completely recovered from injury and have been advises it is safe by your health professional.
- Watch your technique and address any technique errors.
- If you experience any discomfort in your chest (suspicion of a rib stress fracture), in line with Rowing Australia guidelines, 4 days of no water training is highly recommended.
Being able to perform a pain-free push-up, sit-up, deep-breath, cough and rib spring as well as experiencing no Night Pain or pain with activities of daily living (ADL) is recommended before returning to full rowing training.
Common Rowing Injuries
The most common rowing injury is low back pain - closely followed by the knee! Given rowing is a repetitive sport, it is no surprise that the evidence shows that most injuries are overuse in nature and not so much traumatic (73.8% overuse vs 26.2% traumatic). So any small musculoskeletal limitation placed under the repetitive stress could develop into an injury. As rowing incorporates all the joints of the body to various degrees, an injury can be sustained to any joint. Aside from the back and knee, common rowing injuries include upper back and neck pain, muscle injuries, knee pain, wrist tendinopathies from oar rotations and the obvious hand blisters. Rib stress fractures tend to occur in athletes who are overtraining.
Please click the following links for more specific advice related to these common rowing injuries:
Common Treatments for Rowing Injuries
FAQs Rowing Injuries
Helpful Products for Rowers
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Last updated 19-Jan-2018 01:59 PM
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