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Epidemiology of injury and illness in 153 Australian international-level rowers over eight international seasons
  1. Larissa Trease1,2,
  2. Kellie Wilkie3,4,
  3. Greg Lovell5,6,
  4. Michael Drew7,8,
  5. Ivan Hooper9
  1. 1 Orthopaedics ACT, Woden, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  2. 2 School of Medicine, Healthcare in Remote and Extreme Environments Program, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  3. 3 BODYSYSTEM Physiotherapy, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  4. 4 gROWINGbodies, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  5. 5 Sports Medicine, Australian Institute of Sport, Belconnen, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  6. 6 UCRISE, University of Canberra Research Institute for Sport and Exercise, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  7. 7 Department of Physiotherapy, Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  8. 8 Australian Collaboration for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention, Federation University Australia, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
  9. 9 Queensland Sports Medicine Centre, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Larissa Trease, Orthopaedics ACT, Woden, ACT 2600, Australia; dr.larissa.trease{at}


Aim To report the epidemiology of injury and illness in elite rowers over eight seasons (two Olympiads).

Methods All athletes selected to the Australian Rowing Team between 2009 and 2016 were monitored prospectively under surveillance for injury and illness. The incidence and burden of injury and illness were calculated per 1000 athlete days (ADs). The body area, mechanism and type of all injuries were recorded and followed until the resumption of full training. We used interrupted time series analyses to examine the association between fixed and dynamic ergometer testing on rowers’ injury rates. Time lost from illness was also recorded.

Results All 153 rowers selected over eight seasons were observed for 48 611 AD. 270 injuries occurred with an incidence of 4.1–6.4 injuries per 1000 AD. Training days lost totalled 4522 (9.2% AD). The most frequent area injured was the lumbar region (84 cases, 1.7% AD) but the greatest burden was from chest wall injuries (64 cases, 2.6% AD.) Overuse injuries (n=224, 83%) were more frequent than acute injuries (n=42, 15%). The most common activity at the time of injury was on-water rowing training (n=191, 68). Female rowers were at 1.4 times the relative risk of chest wall injuries than male rowers; they had half the relative risk of lumbar injuries of male rowers. The implementation of a dynamic ergometers testing policy (Concept II on sliders) was positively associated with a lower incidence and burden of low back injury compared with fixed ergometers (Concept II). Illness accounted for the greatest number of case presentations (128, 32.2% cases, 1.2% AD).

Conclusions Chest wall and lumbar injuries caused training time loss. Policy decisions regarding ergometer testing modality were associated with lumbar injury rates. As in many sports, illness burden has been under-recognised in elite Australian rowers.

  • athlete
  • injury
  • rowing
  • epidemiology

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  • Twitter @DrLarissaTrease, @KellieWilkie, @_mickdrew

  • Contributors IH formalised the national medical network for Rowing Australia in 2006 that subsequently collected the data which was compiled by IH/LT/KW. IH was involved in the original design, data collection and approving the manuscript. LT and KW collected data from 2013 to 2016 and were involved in the interpretation of the statistics and were primarily responsible for writing the manuscript. GL was involved in interpretation of the statistics and drafting and approving the manuscript. MD undertook all statistical analyses and was involved in the interpretation of the statistics and drafting and approving the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval for this project was obtained through the Australian Institute of Sport Ethics Committee (Approval number 20170601).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No data are available. Given the confidential nature of the medical records that comprise this data set, no data are available to be shared.