Rowing Injuries and How to Avoid Them

While using a rowing machine is great exercise, many exercise enthusiasts suffer from injuries because they have been over zealous in their workouts. Some may have to stop rowing altogether. More often they have to cut back on their exercise regimen.

Using a rower to train is relatively safe form if you compare this form of exercise treadmills or cycling. However, once you ramp up to a more aggressive level of rowing including more challenging workouts, this is where injuries often occur.

The most common rowers’ injuries include:

  1. Back Pain

StatueMost rowers experience lower back pain caused by muscle fatigue from training too often, setting resistance too high, and/or having poor technique. Rowing isn’t intended to be a sole exercise program. To avoid back injuries it is important to add activities like swimming, jogging, and lifting weights. Also if you experience back pain, a solution is to lessen resistance, alter your rowing  technique, shorten workouts, and/or suspend rowing for a few days.

  1. Rib Stress

Competitive rowers may experience sharp pains in their ribs when rowing, or when breathing heavily. They may discover they have a stress fracture. The only remedy is to cease rowing immediately and wait for the stress fracture to heal. When you resume rowing add push-ups and bench presses to build strength and prevent further rib stress fractures.

  1. Inflammation of Joints

Fluid-filled sacs act as cushions for your joints. Repetitive movement of any joints can inflame the joints, muscles and/or tendons. Thus, we have Tennis Elbow, Carpal Tunnel, and Rower’s hip, or knee inflammations. Symptoms of this injury include pain and swelling and redness when in the knee or hip. The best treatment is to apply ice to the painful area and rest until the inflammation eases. Stretch between workouts will help avoid this injury. Adding resistance training with weights to your workout is also good prevention.

  1. Blisters and Calluses

The repetitive motion of rowing often results in blisters on the hands. While blisters aren’t serious, they can be uncomfortable and can become infected if not treated and covered with sterile bandages. Wearing a good pair of non-slip gloves can help prevent blisters. Another preventative step is to make sure your oars have a well-designed handle designed for your hands. Wipe the oar handles after every workout to prevent bacteria. In time, your hands will toughen and those blistered areas will become callused. Until then, use short rowing sessions to prevent serious blisters and wear gloves.

  1. Tendinitis

Because of the repetitive arm movement, those who exercise on rowing machines or row as a competitive sport often experience muscle strains in the arm or elbow tendinitis. Poor rowing technique will increase the chances of this injury. Thus, a good preventative measure is to make sure your rowing technique is good. Making strength training a part of your workout will build muscular power to cope with the demands of rowing.

Common Causes of Rowing Injuries

  • Poor technique
  • Lack of fitness
  • Over exertion
  • Focusing solely on rowing as an exercise
  • Lack of strength training
  • Poor posture
  • Too high a resistance setting

How to Prevent Rowing Machine Injuries

  • Make sure you are physically fit.
  • Make sure your general health is good.
  • Correct any technique rowing errors immediately to prevent rowing injuries
  • Warm up thoroughly before rowing.
  • Make stretches an important part of your cool down routine.

How to Manage Rowing Machine Injuries

  • If you suffer an injury when rowing, stop immediately to prevent further damage. It is not smart to “row through the pain”. It will only aggravate the injury.
  • Seek prompt treatment of your injury. Thinking it will simply go away is dangerous and may result in chronic injuries.
  • The sooner you treat a rowing injury, the sooner you will be able to return to rowing.
  • Soft tissue injuries such as: ligament sprains, muscle strains, scrapes, contusions, and/or bruises should be treated with rest, ice, compression, and/or elevation. If you do not get quick relief from this first-aid treatment seek the advice of a health professional.
  • Do not jump back into rowing until you have completely recovered and/or your doctor gives you the green light to resume rowing.
  • If injuries have prevented you from rowing for a while start slowly and build up to where you were when you had to stop rowing.