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PT Corner

Nadia Cooper, PT, DPT, OCS is a BIAC masters rower and physical therapist who treats orthopedics and pelvic health patients. The advice she gives here should not replace that of your own doctor. Please seek a physician if you're experiencing pain or need help. 

  • 01/31/2024 10:17 PM | Anonymous

    Data: A study published in 2018 looked at masters rowers in the international community to assess rate and location of injury. They surveyed 743 masters rowers, representing 36 countries, and collected in 2007. Can you guess the body part with the highest prevalence of injury? The low back. How is your core/stretching routine?

    Rowers spend a lot of time in lumbar flexion, which is another way of saying they spend time with their spines bent forward. We are in lumbar flexion in the boat, on the erg, in the car, at our desks at work, on the couch and at the dinner table :)

    To-do: I suggest spending some time warming up lumbar flexion and extension. Lumbar extension is the opposite of flexion, or a backward bending position of the spine. Here are some (possibly) helpful, and very simple tips:

    1. Consider warming up your spine before your row: cat / camel, downward facing dog followed by upward facing dog, prone press ups
    2. Consider getting, or using, a standing desk at work
    3. Roll up a towel and place it in the small of your back when you are in the car to keep your spine in a neutral position
  • 12/15/2023 9:09 PM | Anonymous

    This is the time of year a lot of people have a shift in their training. Head racing season is behind us, and the weather is cooling. Elbow pain is a relatively common complaint in rowers though not as prevalent as low back pain. This injury is often related to “training errors” which could be: changing oar handles to something smaller or larger, over-gripping (guilty!), taking time off then returning too quickly, and training in cold weather without warming up. Pain may be in the inside or outside of the elbow, or into the forearm, aka: golfer’s elbow/ medial epicondylitis, tennis elbow/lateral epicondylitits or intersection syndrome. While that is a mouthful, stretching that area is simple for prevention (in addition to avoiding the above training errors). If you’re already experiencing pain, there are some additional simple exercises that can help, come talk to me. 

  • 09/15/2023 9:19 PM | Anonymous

    Studies show that 10 minutes of stretching after training can help reduce the incidence of injury in rowers. If you are feeling stiff/sore before you get in the boat, I suggest you work that stiffness out on land first to reduce injury. Here are two of my favorite stretches that target multiple areas that get tight from rowing and that, if neglected, can lead to injury:

    Pigeon pose: 

    You may be familiar with this yoga pose. The front leg gets a deep gluteal stretch, and the back leg stretches into the hip flexors. If you are particularly flexible, you can bend the back knee for a deeper stretch and include the quads as well. If you are less flexible, figure four stretch is a good alternative. Hold 30 seconds and repeat 2 times.

    Thread the needle in hands-and-knees:

    You get thoracic, rib and some lumbar rotation and mobility here. If you are a sweep rower, this will help to balance out the stressors into the ribcage. Repeat 5- 10 times each side, holding each repetition 5-10 seconds

  • 06/15/2022 9:36 PM | Anonymous

    Side Plank with shoulder external rotation

    Core stability is important in rowing as well as rotator cuff and shoulder strength. This exercise targets all of the above. To make it easier, use less (or no) weight and / or do the plank on bent knees. A resistance band or dumbbell both work well. 

    Here's a short clip of the movement

  • 03/15/2022 9:45 PM | Anonymous

    After a row, a teammate recently asked me for some ways to stretch her lower back, specifically the area right above the two little boney bumps in the lower part of her spine. I call this area the lumbosacral junction, and the disc in this area usually gets more wear than other areas of the spine. This is the area between the last lumbar vertebrae and the sacrum. If you feel stiffness there first thing in the morning or when you get out of the boat, many stretches can help, but these are my favorite:

    1. Self traction: watch this video
    2. Prone press ups: see photo
    3. Prone windshield wipers: watch this video
  • 09/15/2020 10:12 PM | Anonymous

    I have noticed an uptick in “lifestyle injuries” in my clinic since shelter-in-place began. We are on video conferences so much that the word Zoom has become a verb. And I do not mean zoom in the sense that you just saw your teammate zoom past you in a boat. 

    If you have been taking advantage of being able to go out in a single, you are probably doing better than most. But you will still be at risk for injuries if you then go home and sit through the majority of your work day. One of the things I recommend to my patients is to set up at least two work stations in their homes with one of those being a standing workstation. This could be as simple as moving your laptop to the kitchen counter for some time while you work. Ergonomics at your workstation matters the same way technique matters in the boat: poor technique and poor ergonomics can set you up for injury and decrease your efficiency.

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