Dr. Mark E. Pruzansky
Dr. Jason S. Pruzansky
975 Park Avenue New York, NY 10028


What is a Rowing Injury?

Rowing is a sport that involves athletes sitting in the hull of a boat, engaging in a rowing stroke with a continuously repeated cycle. The arm position involves elbows flexed with the legs extended, and the oar handle is drawn to and from the body, flexing and extending the elbows, and wrist movement too.

Activities that entail repeatedly bending the wrist up and down, such as rowing, can lead to pain on the back of the forearm a few inches below the wrist, as well as a creaking sound/sensation as the tendons rub against the extensor retinaculum or each other.

Types of Rowing Injuries

Most rowing injuries are caused by overuse, affecting the wrist and forearm. The most common injury sustained while rowing is intersection syndrome, which describes a condition where the radial-side wrist extensor tendons that cross under the wrist retinaculum become irritated from overuse.

Another common injury is Extensor Tenosynovitis of the wrist, including De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, which occurs when inflammation affects the tendons of the wrist and hand.

Characteristics and Clinical Presentation of Rowing Injuries

Intersection syndrome is characterized by pain and swelling in the distal dorsal radial forearm. Additionally, Extensor Tenosynovitis of the wrist is associated with swelling, pain, and crepitus (creaking) with movement of the wrist.

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain and tenderness of the wrist tendons
  • Swelling of the tendons on the back of the hand
  • A grinding sensation (crepitus) with the movement of the fingers and wrist

Causes of Rowing Injuries

Rowers should always seek ways to improve their rowing technique to reduce their risk of injury. In order to do this, rowers should improve their core strength and overall strength training to provide them with adequate muscular power to maintain while engaging in this sport.

Common causes of rowing injuries include:

  • Poor technique
  • Insufficient of fitness
  • Overtraining
  • Musculoskeletal limitations
  • Unsupervised resistance training
  • Suboptimal ergonomics

Getting a Diagnosis for Rowing Injuries

A careful physical exam and history by a hand surgeon can make the diagnosis. X-rays help to identify calcifications, bone spurs, arthritis and fractures, which may contribute to the condition and symptoms. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be required to further visualize ligamentous injuries. Radiographs may also depict thumb carpometacarpal (CMC) arthritis and osteophytes around the distal radius, mimicking wrist tendonitis.

Treatment Options for Rowing Injuries

Cease activity if you sustain an injury while rowing to prevent further damage. Rowing through pain only has the potential to aggravate the injury; early management can mean less time away from rowing.

Conservative Treatments

Soft tissue injuries (ligament sprains, muscle strains, bumps, and bruises) may be treated with rest, ice, professionally applied compression, and elevation until you seek advice from your healthcare professional. Do not resume activity until you have been cleared by your surgeon. Splinting and immobilization may also be recommended, including NSAIDs or a cortisone injection.

Surgical Treatments

Rowing injuries can normally be treated with rest, splinting, and anti-inflammatory medications. For patients requiring surgical intervention due to Extensor Tenosynovitis of the wrist, Drs. Pruzansky may recommend a procedure to alleviate pressure on the inflamed tendon.

Preventing Rowing Injuries

Patients can prevent potential rowing injuries by paying attention to proper body mechanics and by preparing themselves adequately for the level of fitness required.

Drs. Pruzansky recommend the following methods to try to prevent injuries sustained while rowing:

  • Attain a good level of general health, technique, and fitness.
  • Warm up thoroughly.
  • Stretching is an important part of your cooldown routine.

Prognosis for Rowing Injuries

Most patients with rowing injuries respond well to a program of conservative management following a period of rehabilitation to try to restore mobility and range of motion. Individuals requiring surgical intervention generally return to rowing activities following a brief immobilization period and rehab.

If You Believe You Have a Rowing Injuries, Contact HandSport Surgery Institute

Please contact us to schedule an appointment with our talented team. People experiencing a rowing injury ought to be evaluated to try and prevent further injury and mobility issues. If you have been injured, it’s important to be evaluated by a highly skilled hand surgeon. Call Drs. Mark and Jason Pruzansky at 212-249-8700 to schedule an appointment, obtain an accurate diagnosis, and start to restore comfort to your hand.