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The trunk muscles of elite oarsmen
  1. A H McGregor1,
  2. L Anderton2,
  3. W M W Gedroyc2
  1. 1Department of Musculoskeletal Surgery, Imperial College School of Medicine, Charing Cross Hospital, London, UK
  2. 2Interventional MRI Unit, St Mary's Hospital, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr McGregor, Department of Musculoskeletal Surgery, Imperial College School of Medicine, Charing Cross Hospital, London W6 8RF, UK;


Objectives: To investigate the trunk strength of elite rowers and the impact of low back pain on these measures in order to determine if asymmetries or weakness were present.

Methods: Twenty two elite rowers were recruited: 13 reported previous low back pain, five current low back pain, and the remainder had no history of low back pain. All subjects were scanned during simulated rowing in an interventional open magnetic resonance imaging scanner. In each simulated rowing position, axial scans were obtained at the level of the L4–5 and L5–S1 disc interspace to determine the cross sectional area of the posterior trunk muscles.

Results: Considerable differences were observed between the three groups of rowers. In contrast with expectations and previous literature, the trunk muscles of rowers with low back pain had significantly larger cross sectional areas (p<0.001). No left/right asymmetries were observed and no differences between oarside and non-oarside in terms of muscle cross sectional area.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that low back pain in rowers does not arise as a result of muscle weakness.

  • rowing
  • back muscle
  • cross sectional area
  • multifidus
  • low back pain

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