Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Lower Spine News

Helping Rowers Avoid Back Pain: Listen up . . . Oar Else

Back pain in athletes is common. Gymnasts, divers, weight lifters, golfers, and football players report back pain the most often. College students on rowing teams (called crew teams) are also at risk for back pain. In fact, back pain among rowers has increased a lot in the last 20 years. This is true for both men and women crew teams.

There are many possible reasons for this increase in back pain among rowers. The style of rowing has changed, and training is much more intense. Athletes who use many different training tools have higher rates of back pain. This may include weight machines, free weights, and indoor rowing machines referred to as "ergometer rowing."

Ergometer training has made it possible for more rowers to practice for longer periods. Training on the ergometer is more difficult than rowing in a boat. The longer a rower uses an ergometer, the more his or her rowing technique declines.

Other changes in the sport of rowing have included taller and heavier athletes. Increased height is linked with back pain in female rowers. The shape of boat oars has also changed and may be adding to strain on the back. The use of a "hatchet" oar blade is a also risk factor for back pain.

There are several suggestions for preventing injuries in college rowers. Training type, frequency, and intensity should be monitored carefully. Ergometer training should be done for less than 30 minutes at a time. The focus should be on cardiovascular training rather than strength training. Early training must be on strengthening for the back, hamstring, and shoulder blade muscles. Novice rowers should use tulip-oar blades until they are strong enough to handle hatchet oars.

Carol C. Teitz, MD, et al. Back Pain in Intercollegiate Rowers. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. September/October 2002. Vol. 30. No. 5. Pp. 674-679.


*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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