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Factors contributing to low back pain in rowers
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  1. Duncan A Reid,
  2. Peter J Mcnair
  1. Neuromuscular Research Unit School of Physiotherapy Auckland, New Zealand

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    Competitive rowing is a highly aerobic sport requiring technical skills, motor coordination, adequate strength, and endurance.1,2 A number of authors13–6 have reported a significant incidence of low back pain among the rowing population. This paper identifies the factors that may influence the onset of low back pain.

    During the rowing stroke, the magnitude of the forces on the lumbar spine is high. Hosea et al7 reported average compressive loads of 3919 N for men and 3330 N for women, while anterior shear forces were found to be 848 N and 717 N for men and women respectively. Peak compressive loads during the stroke were 6066 N and 5031 N for men and women respectively. Furthermore, for 70% of the stroke cycle, rowers are in a flexed posture.7 Hosea et al7 recorded flexion ranges averaging 28–30° which equates to 55% of maximum range of spinal flexion. Tensile stresses on the outer annulus of the intervertebral disc have been found to increase considerably above 50% flexion.8 The combination of flexion with compressive loading has been identified as a mechanism for injury to the lumbar spine structures.9 In addition to flexion and compression, sweep rowers also rotate their trunks. This combination can place considerably more stress through the facet joint capsules and ligaments and may facilitate damage to discs, although the evidence for the latter is inconclusive.9 For rowers, the time of day will also influence the magnitude of the forces on their lumbar spines. In order to have calm …

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