It’s no surprise to any rower that rowing places extreme demands on its participants. The movement itself, the intensity, the technique required, and the traditional approach to training makes injuries a common occurrence. Studies have found that 32-51% of rowers will experience an injury each year. When it comes to back pain, 82% of rowers report pain annually (1).
So, is that just the nature of the sport? Is there no way to get around these numbers? What most people don’t realize is that we are completely capable of flipping the switch on these numbers. Fortunately, there are only 3 ways to get injured from rowing (excluding a freak accident or a serious crab).
1) Over-use or Under-recovery
2) Technical error
3) Developed imbalances
Since rowing is a non-contact sport we have control over all 3 mechanisms listed above. Lucky for us, we don’t have to deal with contact injuries such as ACL tears and concussions that are so prominent in other sports. The only way you can truly keep a football player safe is by keeping him on the sideline. We, on the other hand, can reduce the chance of all injuries from ever even occurring in the first place. All we have to do is make injury reduction a priority.
The simple truth is, that staying healthy is the easiest way to improve your performance. Rowers are really good at putting in the time and effort. What rowers often miss, is the fact that you not only have to outwork your opponents, you have to outsmart, and out-recover them as well.
These high injury rates are not the sport, it’s not normal. It’s how we’ve been training for it. In fact, there are several things that you can do that can drastically reduce your chance of getting injured. Just to be clear, no one can prevent injuries, but we can reduce the overall number of injuries significantly. If we get lucky, and we put in the time and effort, we can have an injury free season(s).
1) Wilson, F., Gissane, C., & McGregor, A. (2014). Ergometer training volume and previous injury predict back pain in rowing; strategies for injury prevention and rehabilitation. British Journal Of Sports Medicine, 48(21), 1534-1538.
Blake Gourley holds a Masters of Science in Sports Performance Training and has over 12+ years of experience working with rowers. Read more