Rowers Guide to Preventing and Treating Injuries

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Regatta season is here and all of these rowing events encourage more people to get out on the river and row irrespective of their level of experience and expertise. Rowing is a great way to get fit whilst allowing you to enjoy the beauty of your nearby River Thames or a local lake.

So if you’ve taken the plunge and signed up for a regatta in your area, or if you’re a regular rower, we’ve put together some useful tips to prevent and treat rowing injuries.

What causes rowing injuries?

Rowing is a fantastic sport for developing core, leg and arm strength as well as having cardiovascular benefits. However, injuries of the wrist, rib cage, knee and lumbar spine can happen. These are most often due to overuse and time spent rowing, although bad technique (not sitting correctly in the boat, or using an uncoordinated rowing motion), prior injuries (rowing may exacerbate these, such as those of the back, wrist and knee), and lack of fitness can all lead to a rowing injury.

A beginner to the sport is more likely to incur injuries because their bodies aren’t used to rowing and they may not have a good level of fitness. An elite rower’s injury incidence is related to the amount of training they do and their technique.

Common rowing injuries

These include:

- Lower back pain – The most common rowing injury.Constant bending back and forth of rowing can injure your lower back.

- Upper back pain - This includes pain and tenderness of your muscles in your shoulder, neck and upper back.

- Knee pain - Pain beneath your knee cap or when you move your knee joint.

- Wrist tendonitis - Pain and swelling around your wrist.

- Rib cage pain - The majority are rib stress fractures. They usually only occur in professional rowers.

How to prevent rowing injuries

- Achieve a good fitness levels before you start rowing.

- If you already have injuries to your back, knees or wrists, then speak with your doctor or physiotherapist to find out the best ways to protect these areas whilst rowing.

- Exercise to strengthen your muscles and back, improve your posture and tighten your stomach. This can consist of rowing, running, cycling and/or weight lifting. For example, if you have stronger arms and shoulders they will take unnecessary pressure off your wrists and, strong stomach muscles will help look after your back.

- Attain a good level of general health by eating a balanced diet and exercising frequently.

- Warm up thoroughly before every training session. This is especially key in preventing knee injuries whilst rowing. A good warm up consists of approximately 10 minutes of aerobic exercise such as running.

- Stretch properly after warming up and when you cool down after rowing.

- Check your equipment is up to par. Always maintain a good posture to avoid back injury. Sit tall on your seat, with your head up and your eyes ahead.

- Coordinate and practice your rowing motion. If you’re new to rowing start off slowly and in short spurts to get your body used to the rowing motion.

- Avoid over straining while you row. If you feel any discomfort lower your intensity and if you feel pain stop immediately to prevent injury.

- Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. This will help your body to endure a strenuous rowing workout.

- Protect yourself from the sun by wearing protective clothing, sunglasses, a hat and applying sun screen.

Treatment for rowing injuries

If you incur an injury whilst rowing you should stop immediately to help prevent any further damage. If you row on through the pain this may aggravate your injury.

You should seek prompt treatment for your injury. Early management nearly always means that you will have less time away from rowing.

RICE is the best treatment for soft tissue injuries such as ligament sprains, muscle strains, bumps and bruises. This is rest, ice, compression and, elevation. You should also seek professional advice.

Ensure your injury is completely recovered before you resume rowing or any physical activity. It’s best to get the greenlight from your health professional.

Register your interest to hear from us