Rowing and Backs

Guidance from the British Rowing Medical Panel on the Avoidance of Back Pain

Take great care to maintain a safe technique while weight and ergometer training. Fatigue is a major risk factor for injury and you must take particular care when fatigued, for example, land training after long water sessions or during speed circuits.

A rower’s maximum effort is the weight that can be lifted while maintaining perfect technique. Good lifting technique helps to increase strength whilst a poor lifting technique leads to increased injuries. Ensure that gearing and duration of rowing allow the maintenance of good technique.

Before and after exercise, warm up/cool down properly. A short period of extension stretches is advised after more than one hour of rowing or 30 minutes of ergometer training. Incorporate core stability exercises and stretching into your training programme. Cross-training may reduce the incidence of low back pain.  If you are uncertain about which exercises you should use get advice from a sports doctor or physiotherapist.

Seek advice from a health professional if you experience any unusual back pain or if the back pain lasts for longer than 48 hours without showing signs of settling. Seek medical advice if you intend to train with persistent unnatural back pain. Ensure that any medication you take conforms with British Rowing’s rules.

During rehabilitation from an old injury, build your strength up carefully, taking particular care during long steady state rowing and standing starts.

If necessary seek healthcare professional advice about what you should be able to achieve and what to do if you fall short of your targets.  Alter your training programme to avoid exercises that will stimulate the pain and also take into account any relevant previous injuries.

Previous injury is a strong predictor of future injury. Coaches and athletes are advised to keep an injury log. Statistically, rowing is one of the safest sports but we need to make it even safer.

– British Rowing Medical Panel September 2015

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