Preventing Rowing Injuries

Not much research has been made regarding rowing injuries. Yet, rowers often complain about lower back pain, rib stress fractures, shoulder pain and more.

Rumball et al. (2005) have made a review paper listing the most common injuries of rowers and proposing methods to diagnose and treat them.

The most commonly injured region is the low back (due to excessive hyperflexion and twisting).

Rowing injuries - back pain
The most common rowing injury is pain in lower back

Specific injuries of the back include

  • spondylolysis,
  • sacroiliac joint dysfunction and
  • disc herniation.

Other injuries include

  • rib stress fractures,
  • shoulder pain (due to overuse, poor technique or tension in the upper body),
  • injuries in the forearm or wrist,
  • generalized patellomeforal pain (due to abnormal patellar tracking) and
  • dermatological issues (blisters, abrasions).

The authors point out that the best way to handle injuries is prevention. It is important to avoid sharp increases in intensity or volume without adequate rest and recovery. This might be one of the reasons, why most of the injuries in rowers have reported to occur during the beginning of the preparatory period (Wilson et al. 2010). Another two risk factors include switching from land-training to water-training (and vice versa), and uncontrolled (not supervised) strength training. Additionally, coaches should add cross-training and core training sessions to their athletes’ programs and encourage them to stretch.

What to learn from this?

To avoid injuries, it is important to control what athletes do. Most of the injuries can be avoided by a wisely planned training program which takes into account the level of an athlete, proper training-recovery ratio and includes various core-strengthening and stretching exercises.


Rumball JS, Lebrun CM, Di Ciacca SR, Orlando K. Rowing Injuries. Sports Medicine 2005; 35(6): 537-555.

Wilson F, Gissane C, Gormley J, Simms C. A 12-month prospective cohort study of injury in international rowers. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2010; 44:207–214.

Jaan Saks

Jaan Saks is the Editor in Chief at Sportlyzer Academy. He is also finishing his Master's degree in Sports Sciences at the University of Tartu.