When it comes to the physical therapist's (PT's) role in keeping rowers healthy, it's all about form following function. And vice versa.
The June issue of PT in Motion magazine includes "Fluid Motions," an article that takes a close look at rowing (aka crew): the special demands it puts on the human body, the injuries that can result, and the interventions PTs use to get these high-intensity athletes back on the water. The PTs interviewed for the story treat rowers at different levels, from amateur to professional, and from local rowing clubs to university teams.
While injuries can vary, the most common problems involve the back and knees, according to the article. No matter the injury site, however, the PT is faced with a twofold task: help the athlete recover, and find out what's causing things to go wrong. Sometimes, it's a matter of improving form to better accommodate the repetitive forces rowers must face. Other times, the rower's form may be fine, but weaknesses or positioning in other parts of the body can lead to injury.
The article also examines the special needs of women rowers, the challenges for the PT treating the adolescent athlete, and the importance of good coaching that emphasizes the role of proper biomechanics.
Because rowers will—hopefully—spend more time with their coaches than with a PT, the importance of careful coaching can't be overemphasized, according to Doug Adams, PT, DPT, who was interviewed for the story. Fortunately for the local youth rowing clubs Adams works with, the coaches understand the big picture.
"[The coaches] are learning to focus on some of the intangibles, and maybe not spending as much time in the boats," Adams says. "They're working on some skills that will keep these athletes healthy."
"Fluid Motions" is featured in the June issue of PT in Motion and is open to all viewers—pass it along to nonmember colleagues to show them 1 of the benefits of belonging to APTA. Printed editions of the magazine are mailed to all members who have not opted out; digital versions are available online to members.