Rowing is a very unique sport requiring a combination of flexibility and strength unlike many other sports.

To achieve the most efficient stroke, rowers must be able to achieve full compression at the catch, relying on good flexibility through the hamstrings, hips and lower back. The forces applied during the drive as the blade travels through the water are predominantly generated by the quads, hamstrings and gluts (strong leg muscles) and are transferred to the oar via a strong and stable core and shoulder girdle.

Due to the complex and technical nature of the sport, rowers are often challenged by various injuries, (not to mention a constant battle with blisters on their hands!) most commonly:

– Lower back pain
– Rib injuries
– Wrist pain

Studies conducted into the prevalence of lower back pain in school-level rowers showed an incidence of 93.8% in teenage boys and 77.9% in teenage girls throughout a season.

Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain can be caused by high training loads in combination with altered biomechanics. For example, a restriction in hamstring length can impair a rower’s ability to rock the body forwards during the initial recovery phase of the stroke, causing them to bend through the lower back to compensate. This loads the lower back into a weaker and less stable position, putting extra strain on the muscles and joints of the lower back. During the drive phase of the stroke, in particular in younger rowers, if the larger muscle groups such as the glutes and quadriceps are not activated correctly, the smaller muscles in the lumbar spine over compensate, taking most of the load as the oar is drawn through the water. Correct muscle activation and control exercises can be extremely useful in young rowers to reduce the loading of the lumbar spine and surrounding postural muscles, to prevent and rehabilitate injuries to this area.

School Rowing Screening

Through our “School Rowing Screening” we found a high incidence of lower back pain, correlating closely to restrictions in hip range and weakness of key muscle groups. To address these areas we have formed individualised warm-up routines that have had great effects on not only minimising injuries, but also optimising stroke efficiency and power through the water. We have been utilising the same muscle activation and retraining as used by the Great British rowing team in the lead up to the 2012 Olympics, to see some fantastic results on and off the water.

Additionally, our physio Sarah Hammond has been working closely with an elite group of rowers from West Australian Rowing Club and UWA Boat Club, making changes to their off water training programs, which saw great results at the 2015 Sydney International Rowing Regatta. The athletes were able to maintain their high training load after addressing possible areas of weakness or restrictions in range during the stroke.

Sarah is passionate about rowing and specialises in managing back pain and other rowing related injuries through a thorough biomechanical assessment, and well as optimising activation of the key muscle groups.

Come and visit our state of the art Pilates studio to find out more about how clinical Pilates can prevent and manage your rowing related injuries!

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