Rowing Biomechanics: Technique Changes with an Increase of Power Demand

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Price, Elizabeth
rowing , thoracic spine , biomechanics
The sport of rowing has become more popular in the past decade. While it is a relatively low impact sport, injuries can occur, specifically to the ribs (Karlson K. A., 1998) and more often in female athletes (Hickey, Fricker, & McDonald , 1997). It has been proposed that as the athlete rows, applying a cyclical load to the body, the mid trapezius fatigues and is unable to resist the force produced during the drive phase (Warden S. J., Gutschlag, Wajswelner, & Crossley, 2002). Once this happens, the scapulae are then pulled anterio-laterally which increases the compression force on the ribs, increasing the risk of injury. The rowing motion of 12 female varsity and club rowers was tracked as they completed a fatiguing rowing test on a rowing ergometer. Results showed that the curvature of thoracic spine changed throughout the rowing cycle but did not change with increasing power level. The transverse shoulder angle decreased (the upper back was less straight) as power level increased (R2=-0.69±19), suggesting that the scapula moved anterio-laterally. This may be that as it tired, the mid-trapezius was unable to hold the scapulae in position. The decreasing transverse shoulder angle when the power level is increased indirectly supports the fatiguing of the retractor muscles as a mechanism of injury. It would be valuable to understand the limitations of each athlete and to be able to prescribe the optimal training zone to reduce the risk of injury.
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