Dealing with Nagging Rowing Injuries

As any rower has experienced, rowing combines a relatively high level of muscular power output combined with endurance. This is part of the reason why athletes have to be extremely fit to participate in this sport, and why it’s an attractive option for recreational athletes looking to maximize their fitness benefits. After all, who wouldn’t want to stay in shape while enjoying being on the water?

Unfortunately, the nature of the sport also predisposes athletes to sneaky injuries. Often times, especially in training, injuries can occur near the later stages of the training session when the body has reached a significant level of fatigue, ultimately compromising technique. Combine this with the fact that this also coincides with the point when you are giving it your all, and conditions are just right for an injury.

It could be worse. Usually, these injuries are more along the lines of overuse injuries, for example, in the form of a muscle strain, as opposed to something more traumatic like a broken bone. Nevertheless, the competitive nature in all of us rowers can make it difficult to stay off the water for too long and allowing the injury to heal 100%.

Therefore, we would like to present a few different ways that you can minimize your recovery time, or at the very least, get back on the water without doing any more damage. To be clear, we are NOT saying that you should rush your recovery. Rather, once you feel healthy enough to return to the water, there are ways in which you can manage your injury and reduce your risk of re-aggravating the injury.


Many rowers, as well as other athletes who place a large workload on their upper body, often overlook the benefits of bracing devices for elbow joints. Many have the notion that braces are supposed to be reserved for more traumatic injuries which allow the joint to remain splinted, or at least limited in its range of motion, for example, after an ACL sprain.

Conveniently, the last decade has seen a lot of advancements in joint protection technologies. We’re not talking anything fancy, but rather, clever designs that allow a joint to be protected while still leaving the athlete free to train int heir normal manner without any additional discomfort.

One of the most popular brace designs for rowers is the slim shoulder brace. These tend to wrap around your shoulder joint similar to a sling, but instead of supporting your arm for total immobilization, they offer compression through tension of the fabric and an anatomical fit. These are highly popular in other sports that target the upper body, such as football and baseball, but the purpose is always the same: support the shoulder joint while still allowing for a good range of motion. Other types of braces are available as well, such as elbow braces and wrist braces, that also incorporate this fabric design that avoids mechanical components. Most are fine to get wet, you might just have to wash them a little more often. You can check out a lot of the different types of braces on sites like

Stretching and Rolling

One thing a lot of people take for granted as well is stretching. If you’re a competitive athlete, then you already know the importance of stretching, but when returning from an injury it can be extra important. We won’t go into too much detail here, as you likely already have your own stretching protocol specific to your rowing program, but here are a couple tips:

  • When your injury is healthy enough that stretching becomes a beneficial activity, add a little more into your routine during or after your shower at home. This might require waking up 10 minutes earlier, but it’s a great way to start the day off right. Don’t worry about going all out. Just some nice gentle stretching can go a long way, especially if it adds to the frequency of your current bouts of stretching.
  • Foam rollers provide an excellent way to regain your mobility. However, you will likely need to take a little more caution with this. Rolling can be painful, especially if you have taken some time off from it, so start at slow at first and work your way up very gradually.

That’s All!

These are just a couple things to think about that can help you speed up your recovery time and avoid aggravating an existing injury. If there is one take-home message, it’s to reintroduce this type of activity very slowly. While it can seem more painful to rest, especially at the later stages of recovery, this is sometimes required in order to avoid longer term issues that can keep you off the water. Good luck!

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