New research aims to help rowers take the strain off their backs

Rowers of all abilities are set to benefit from new scientific research which will help improve their technique and may lead to less back injuries in the sport.

Researchers at Imperial College, London report today in the journal Clinical Biomechanics that they have developed a technique which will allow rowers to measure and visualise how well the different sections of their lower back are moving together whilst they are rowing.

The researchers also show that their technique clearly reveals how good and bad rowers differ in their spinal movements during the rowing stroke.

Dr Anthony Bull, Lecturer in the Department of Biological and Medical Systems and member of the BioDynamics Group, said Rowing is one of the most physically demanding and strenuous sports. It also places a premium on technical skill and demands high levels of consistency and continuity from individuals in order that they build and maintain crew synchronisation.

Our research demonstrates for the first time how small changes in lower back movement can be picked up and analysed and related to alterations in the rowing technique, he said.

To assess their systems performance the researchers recruited six male rowers of elite standard from Imperial College Boat Club. At the Olympic Games in Sydney this year, three former rowers from the club won gold medals in the GB mens eight.

The researchers fixed small lightweight receivers to the body of each rower, and these were then hooked up to an electromagnetic motion tracking device known as the Flock of Birds. This device allowed the angles between key parts of the lower spine and legs to be measured whilst the oarsmen practised on the ergometer - a rowing simulator machine.

After rowing strenuously for a 10 minute period - leading towards fatigue - the rowers were asked to simulate bad technique in three common faulty styles - known as 'bum-shoving', 'taking the catch with the shoulders' and 'leaning back too far'.

Each o

Contact: Tom Miller
Imperial College London

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