Understanding and Preventing Common Rowing Injuries


Rowing is a demanding sport that requires a harmonious blend of strength, endurance, and technique. Despite the best precautions, rowers can still face a variety of injuries. This article aims to enlighten rowers about common injuries, their causes, and effective treatments.

Common Rowing Injuries

Each injury requires a unique approach, emphasising the importance of understanding the underlying causes and adopting appropriate treatment strategies. Prevention, through proper technique and balanced training, remains the best approach. Early intervention and professional guidance are crucial in effectively treating these injuries, ensuring a quick and safe return to the sport.

Lower Back Pain

Lower Back Pain is a frequent complaint among rowers. It's often the result of poor technique, overuse, or weak core muscles, which can lead to chronic pain or acute injuries. Treatment usually involves rest to allow the body to heal and physiotherapy to address any underlying issues. Core strengthening exercises are crucial for rehabilitation and preventing future injuries. Additionally, adjusting one's rowing technique can help alleviate stress on the back and prevent the problem from repeating.

Knee Injuries

Knee Injuries can occur from the repetitive motion and pressure exerted during the drive phase of the rowing stroke. The key to treating these injuries is to reduce the immediate strain through rest and possibly anti-inflammatory measures. Rehabilitation often includes exercises that strengthen the muscles supporting the knee. In some cases, technique adjustments are necessary to ensure that the knees are not being unduly stressed during rowing.

Rib Stress Fractures

Rib Stress Fractures can develop from the high training volumes and the repetitive force applied by rowers. These fractures require a significant period of rest to heal. A gradual return to rowing with a focus on technique and core strength can help prevent future fractures.

Wrist Tendinitis

Wrist Tendinitis is another common injury due to the repetitive wrist motion involved in handling the oars. Treatment involves rest and ice to reduce inflammation, along with anti-inflammatory medications if necessary. Technique modification is also important to prevent recurrence.

Shoulder Injuries

Shoulder Injuries, particularly rotator cuff issues, are common due to the repetitive nature of rowing. Rest and physiotherapy, including exercises to strengthen the shoulder stabilisers, can be effective treatments. Technique refinement to ensure proper form and reduce overuse is critical for recovery and future injury prevention.

Skin Problems

Lastly, Skin Problems like blisters and calluses develop due to friction and pressure points, especially on the hands. Rowers often use protective gear, and proper grip technique is crucial. Additionally, regular care with skin protection products can manage and prevent these issues.

Stretches to prevent common Rowing injuries

Stretching is crucial for maintaining flexibility, preventing injuries, and improving overall performance. Here are some effective stretches for individuals engaged in rowing:

1. Seated Forward Fold

Sit with legs extended and reach forward toward your toes. This stretch targets the hamstrings and lower back, areas often engaged during rowing.

2. Piriformis Stretch

Sit on the edge of a chair and cross one ankle over the opposite knee. Gently press down on the crossed knee to stretch the piriformis muscle, which can become tight from rowing.

3. Cat-Cow Stretch

Perform this yoga-inspired stretch to mobilise the spine. Start on your hands and knees, arch your back (cat), and then drop your belly while lifting your head (cow). Repeat in a fluid motion.

4. Child's Pose

Kneel on the floor, sit back on your heels, and reach your arms forward with palms on the ground. This stretch helps relax the back, shoulders, and hips.

5. Chest Opener Stretch

Stand or sit tall, clasp your hands behind your back, and lift your arms slightly, opening the chest. This counters the forward-reaching motion of rowing.

6. Side Stretch

While sitting or standing, reach one arm overhead and gently lean to the opposite side. This stretch targets the sides and helps alleviate tension in the obliques.

7. Triceps Stretch

Bring one arm down your back and reach the hand up between your shoulder blades. Use your other hand to gently pull on the bent elbow, stretching the triceps.

8. Neck and Shoulder Rolls

Perform gentle neck rolls and shoulder rolls to release tension in the neck and shoulders, areas commonly affected during rowing.

9. Hip Flexor Stretch

Kneel on one knee, with the other foot in front, forming a 90-degree angle. Gently lean forward to stretch the hip flexors. Switch sides to stretch both legs.

10. Wrist Flexor Stretch

Extend one arm forward with the palm facing down, and use the opposite hand to gently press down on the fingers. This helps stretch the forearm and wrists, which can be active during rowing.

11. Ankle Mobility Exercises

Circle your ankles clockwise and counterclockwise to maintain good ankle mobility. Flex and point your toes to engage the muscles around the ankles.

Remember to perform these stretches with controlled and deliberate movements, holding each stretch for about 15-30 seconds. Stretching should be done after a proper warm-up or after your rowing session when the muscles are warmed up. Listen to your body, and avoid overstretching to prevent injury.

The exercises listed should only be performed if you have the strength & ability to perform them comfortably. If you are unsure, we recommend you discuss this with a qualified physiotherapist. We cannot be held responsible for any injuries sustained while performing them without an initial assessment and advice from one of our team.

Jason Howard

Managing Director

Jason is the Managing Director and owner of The White House clinic, incorporating The White House Medical Group, a partnership with Bupa Health (Bupa Sheffield), The White House Medicolegal Services and PhysioNet +.

Jason Howard

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