May 10th, 2013

Health N' Sports: Rowing

Staff Report

Health N' Sports: Rowing
UCLA rowing team / photo from

Louisville Orthopaedic Clinic shares insight on training

As a part of the Louisville Orthopaedic Clinic, the Sports Rehab Team physical therapists are knowledgeable and trained in the latest advancements and techniques available in sports rehabilitation.

On a weekly basis, the Health N’ Sports Update will give information on prevention, recovery, and include special offers, as well as general health tips that would be beneficial to all. If there is a specific topic you’d like to know or hear more about, email future suggestions to

Most rowing injuries result secondary to overuse, poor body mechanics and improper training techniques. Common injury sites for rowing include: wrist & hand, forearms, shoulders, hips, knees, and low back. 73% of rowing injuries are a direct result of overuse.


Wrist and hand injuries include tendonitis secondary to repetitive feathering (after the blade of the oar is placed in the water at the catch, the rower applies pressure to the oar with a sweeping motion bringing the oars towards the chest), sweep to sculling, handle size that is too large, and too tight of a grip. The “too tight” grip on the oar with a feathering hand can lead to forearm pain.  Another result of improper technique is Epicondylitis or “elbow pain” on the outside of the elbow caused by a feathering hand at catch and release. Pain over the inside of the elbow may also occur at the point of catch and release.

Proper Form, Technique & Strength

Shoulder pain is most commonly associated with impingement (mechanical compression &/or wear & tear of the rotator cuff tendons) signs and symptoms from rowing activity. This comes secondary to poor scapular control, poor core musculature, over-reaching at catch, and lunging at the catch phase of rowing. The risk of low back pain, due to muscular strain or stress fracture, is yet another condition that can be prevented by the use of proper technique, form and conditioning of all muscle groups, especially the core.


Flexibility is a key component to the prevention of injuries and an increased range of motion. Consistently incorporating proper stretching techniques into any exercise regimen may be one of the more mundane parts of your routine but maintaining flexibility and ease of movement will contribute to improving your overall performance. For an example, anterior hip/thigh pain (hip flexor tendonitis) is related to inadequate flexibility of the anterior hip musculature while seated.  Lack of strength and flexibility, in addition to poor patellar tracking, & training errors can lead to yet another condition; knee pain. Clearly, taking the time from the start to properly condition your muscles and focus on stretches to increase flexibility can have a significant impact on your training and performance, therefore reducing your risk for injury.

Education & Supervision

It is imperative for athletes and coaches to monitor that proper training techniques and injury protocols are being utilized. Rapid growth in younger athletes can cause them to be more prone to injury. Again, monitoring and supervision, along with educating athletes is essential and may be the key difference between pain associated with training and pain associated with injury.

Pain & Injury

Making modifications to training techniques is the first step to reducing or eliminating any pain associated with an exercise or stretch. If pain persists after making modifications, consult your local physician. Treatment typically consists of NSAID’s, rest, ice, and physical therapy for stretching and stabilization exercises to recoup and get an athlete back to maximal performance. It is important to be patient. Jumping back into a training routine, doing too much too quickly, will only set you back even further & may even lead to re-injury.

-Patrick Thompson, P.T.-

Louisville Orthopaedic Clinic & Sports Rehab Center

Main Office: 502-897-1794

Physical Therapy: 502-897-1790


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