Introduction: Biomechanical measures of movement are being used increasingly to understand injury mechanisms and enhance performance. Frequently, rowing injuries are attributed to poor rowing technique. This suggests a need to understand technique and its influencing factors. This study aimed to quantify rowing technique in terms of lumbopelvic motion, force production, and work done at different work intensities.
Methods: An electromagnetic motion measuring device in conjunction with a load cell was used to determine the ergometer rowing kinematics of 12 elite international oarswomen during a routine step test. This test comprised six steps at a series of different stroke ratings starting at 18 strokes per minute and ending at maximal-output rowing.
Results: As work intensity increased, force output increased significantly (P < 0.0001). Stroke length remained relatively consistent throughout the steps, although there was a nonsignificant shortening from 136.5 cm (+/-6.4 SD) at 18 strokes per minute to 130.6 cm (+/-8.1) at maximal testing. Changes in kinematics were also observed, particularly at the catch and finish positions. There was a trend towards less anterior pelvic rotation occurring at the catch with an associated reduction in lumbar rotation and greater extensions occurring in both at the finish at the higher rating. Overall, rowers underutilized pelvic rotation to achieve these positions relying predominantly on lumbar rotation.
Conclusion: This study quantified the spinal kinematics of elite rowers at different incremental work intensities and noted subtle but important changes to lumbopelvic and spinal kinematics at increasing work levels, particularly at maximal intensity. Such changes particularly are thought to be important with respect to the development of low-back pain.