The most common rowing injuries have been found to be those resulting from overuse or the repetitive nature of the sport. Rowers are often reluctant to stop training and seek medical attention when pain and other warning signals occur. This leads to compensatory biomechanics which can aggravate the injury and lead to other problems. Consulting with a physiotherapist before beginning training can help the avoid injury.
Some common rowing injuries:
Problems of the lower back are common rowing injuries due to the posture that rowers are forced to assume. One such injury is a slipped disc or disc herniation, caused by the constant bending forward and backward during rowing. Symptoms are acute low back pain which may radiate down the leg. There may also be numbness and tingling. Pain is relieved by rest and lying on one side. A physiotherapy program of massage, mobilisation and stretching techniques will be helpful.
Sacroiliac joint pain
This is another common rowing injury. The sacroiliac joints are located in the lower back, one on either side of the spine. These joints can become stuck or half of the pelvis may glide forward or backward, leading to inflammation. Pain and stiffness in the lower back may be present as well as difficulty bending over to put on socks or shoes. The presence of Ankylosing spondylitis, a form of degenerative arthritis, may also intensify this condition. Treatment calls for rest, icing and physiotherapy.
Rotator cuff injuries
Constant use of the rotator cuff muscles during rowing can lead to rotator cuff injuries, which may be acute or chronic and manifest themselves in shoulder pain and limited movement. Pain may be worse at night. Treatment is with RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) followed by physiotherapy. The few cases that do not respond to physiotherapy may require surgical intervention.
The forward and backward movements during rowing can cause knee pain and injury. To avoid this, the athlete should observe proper body mechanics – keep toes lined up with knees, back straight and knees relaxed. Warming the knees before rowing and icing them afterward can help prevent injury. For good conditioning, a physiotherapy program that stretches and strengthens the quads, hamstrings, calves and ankles before beginning rowing will place you in good stead.
Rib stress fractures
Female rowers appear to have a higher incidence of rib stress fractures than their male counterparts, possibly due to decreased strength and resistance training. Fractures in men usually occur in the front and back ribs and are most often associated with long-distance rowing and heavy loading. Pain is often felt in the back with the tenderness over the affected rib. An X-ray is needed to diagnose this complaint. The athlete will be sidelined for about eight to ten weeks with a gradual return to rowing. Modifying the technique as well as the craft to allow for a shortened lever arm may be helpful. Increasing overall fitness with strength training and physiotherapy can help the athlete avoid re-injury.
Rowing is a beautiful sport whether for competition or recreation; however inadequate fitness levels and skill or overuse can lead to injury. If you have become injured while rowing you should see us for an assessment and treatment.