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What Can Be Done To Protect Rowers From Back Pain?

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Researchers in the UK and Ireland have examined 11 studies on injury in rowing in an effort to come up with strategies for preventing injury and for rehabilitation after an injury.

The lower back is the most commonly reported injury site among rowers, and recent research has focused on epidemiology and biomechanical analyses to help understand mechanisms that contribute to the onset of this injury.

Looking specifically at studies which examined low back pain in rowers, two significant risk factors were identified: history of lumbar spine injury and volume of ergometer training, with training sessions lasting longer than 30 minutes.

Studies of technique on the rowing ergometer point to the importance of lumbopelvic rotation during rowing. Ideally there should be greater pelvic rotation at either end of the rowing stroke, rather than extreme flexion and extension of the lumbar spine.

Technique can deteriorate with the demands of rowing intensity and duration, and that puts the rower returning from injury at additional risk, the researchers said.

In their conclusions, the researchers – Fiona Wilson, Conor Gissane and Alison McGregor – recommend that lumbopelvic motion should be considered when analysing trunk movement in rowing. They said that excessive use of lumbar flexion and extension without accompanying pelvic tilting may lead to increased lumbar spine loading.

Additionally, in rowing training and in rehabilitation after injury it´s important to consider endurance of the trunk muscles to facilitate good lumbopelvic rhythm. Factors such as fatigue, rowing intensity and skill level will influence trunk control, the researchers said.