Rowing is a sport which places great strain on an individuals body especially through their spine and shoulders. The constant bending and extending and pushing and pulling of the spine and shoulders during rowing can cause for aching joints and overused muscles. Therefore the importance of postural mechanics, in combination with the hip and shoulder joints, is vitally important to prevent injuries in rowing.
Firstly the lower part of the spine is the most commonly injured area due to over bending and over extending of the back. If we repetitively over bend in the lower spine this can lead to disc injuries as the tissues supporting the disc become stressed and weak. Oppositely, if we repetitively over extend the back the joints of the spine become inflamed and weakened and may lead to stress related injuries.
To prevent these injuries occurring it is important that rowers concentrate on producing the forwards and backwards motion by rocking through the hips. The flexibility of the hips required for rowing should allow an individual to perform a full squat keeping their heels down.
Secondly the upper part of the spine and neck need to work in conjunction with the shoulders to prevent any neck or upper back injuries. The common occurrence we see with rowers is they adapt a forward head posture and rounded shoulders due to the motion these parts of the body when trying to generate maximum power during a stroke. A forward head posture and tendency to use the bigger neck muscles can create ongoing neck pain whilst rounding of the shoulders can create shoulder, shoulder blade and upper back pain. It is vitally important that smaller muscles of the neck and muscles especially behind the shoulder and scapula are positioned and trained to prevent long term problems.
Written by Physiotherapist Nick Gray at GSSC