You may be an elite rower or a weekend warrior or you may just love the rowing machine at the gym. Our physiotherapist Lauren Fornasaro is an ex-elite rower and she shares her tips on how to stay injury-free so you can enjoy what you love.
What are the most Common Rowing Injuries?
- lower back pain
- chest wall pain
- wrist/forearm pain
- buttock and hip pain
- knee pain
Top Tips for Staying Injury Free
Rowing is a high load, high demand sport. For this reason what you do off the water is as important, if not more important than what you do on the water. Anyone can work hard during a session but in my experience, it is the athletes that prioritise their off water recovery that really differentiate themselves when it comes to performing and avoiding injury.
Here are some simple things you can do off the water to help stay injury-free:
- Focus on your technique – Rowers are innately good at working hard, however, it is important to know when to work and when to focus on technique. Working hard every session and neglecting to make the technical changes your coach is highlighting can be a hard and fast way to sustaining an injury. So be smart about it. My tip is to utilise your time on the erg to not only build cardiovascular endurance but to focus on nailing those technical changes and holding them throughout the session without the on water distractions of poor conditions, other crews etc. Here’s a video of Andrew Randell, current Rowing Australia Senior Men’s Coach teaching the foundations of erg technique — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAIMrW35PuM
- Activation is key – The purpose of a warm-up is to prepare your body for your upcoming workout. It needs to be specific, including mobility exercises and exercises that activate key muscle groups. This Rowing Australia poster outlines key warm-up essentials to both mobilise and activate;
- Sleep! – Getting enough sleep is the easiest (and laziest) way to reduce your risk of injury. Studies have shown that athletes who average less than 8 hours of sleep a night are 1.7x more likely to have an injury compared to those who sleep more than 8 hours a night. A lot of us are guilty of spending too much time scrolling social media before bed. The best way to cut down on this and maximise your sleep is by utilising the ‘do not disturb’ function and ‘night shift mode’ brightness setting on your phone. Both of these tools can be set up to switch on and off at certain times each day. Head to settings and set them for earlier in the evening, think 6pm, so that you are less distracted by your phone before going to bed and can wind down more effectively;
- Flexibility – is imperative in ensuring good rowing technique and avoiding injury. A rower needs to have sufficient mobility to ensure they can reach the catch (front of the stroke) with a neutral lower back to avoid overloading the spine and developing an injury. For this reason, regular stretching after training is a must! I recommend paying particular attention to the hamstrings and lumbar spine.