The Big Rowing Injury Picture
"One of the problems is that we don't understand our impact on our own health, or our role, when it comes to our team's health".
Step Back & Take a Look
To answer any question we need to start with the problem. After we identify the problem we need to step back, and a take a good long look, at the big picture. What different areas are contributing to the problem? More often than not, it's not a simple answer. To me, one of the current problems for the sport of rowing, are injuries. Just like every problem, the answer is complex and won't be solved overnight. One of the problems is that we don't understand our impact, on our own health, or our role, when it comes to our team's health. What we need to do is get to a point where we feel empowered to take care of our own health, as well as their health.
If you've been following me you've probably heard me talk about the injury stats before. Nothing new here, just a reminder that we need to make a change. I'm a strong believer that by simply educating the rowing community we can have a dramatic, positive impact, on these numbers. Drawing from my personal experience as a coach, it's completely possible to slash these numbers.
The research show that if we don't change something about the way we train, a third to half of us will end up with an injury every season. This stat puts us ahead of all non-contact sports and even some contact sports (not in a good way). Since we are a low-impact, non-contact sport, we have no business, with injury rates this high.
If we're part of the lucky half that doesn't get injured next season, we only have an 18% chance to avoid back pain. This stat is just as upsetting and unwelcome as far as I'm concerned. Back pain has become a joke that is commonly shared and laughed about amongst rowers. That upsets me because far too many people are experiencing back pain, but also because it has become an EXPECTATIONS, not an EXCEPTION. It has been accepted as normal. Please hear me when I say, back pain is not normal, and should not be seen as "just a part of the sport".
The Good News
Here's the good news. Since we are a non-contact sport, and since the vast majority of our injuries are chronic injuries, we have A LOT of control over our injury potential. Excluding freak accidents we have control over the 3 injury mechanisms in the sport of rowing.
1) Technical Error
2) Training Error
3) Movement & Strength Deficits
Most chronic injuries will fall under these 3 categories. If I repeat a technical error, especially under load, my body will eventually breakdown. If I do too much too soon (over-training), or if I don't do enough to recover in time (under-recovery), my body will eventually breakdown as well. If I don't have the ability to get into the positions required by the rowing stroke, or to maintain these positions, my body will, you guessed it, eventually breakdown.
The other important key to understand is that all 3 injury mechanisms are connected. If I have adequate movement and strength but I repeat technical errors or training errors, I may have a lower chance of getting injured, but I'm still at risk. The same is true the other way around. If I have perfect technique but limited movement or strength, it may still lead to breakdown. So, it's not about which one is more important. It's about stepping back and realizing that the choices we make in each category will impact our injury potential. All of these errors are within our control and when we address each one we will see a dramatic drop in injury rates.
Have you looked at the big picture? Where could you improve?
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Blake Gourley holds a Masters of Science in Sports Performance Training and has over 12+ years of experience working with rowers. Read more