Repetitive Motion Injuries?

Occasionally, some people express concerns about the risk of injury from rowing. One key concern is back pain. Another example of complaints is repetitive motion injuries, such as tendonitis. Some people even assert that these are not possibilities one could have a concern about, but that they are definitely caused by rowing.

I disagree.  I disagree for two reasons.

First, logically, if the act of rowing caused these problems, every rower would have them. They do not. At a minimum, if rowing contributes to such problems, it must be only one factor.

Second, I disagree that rowing causes injuries such as these (aching back; tendonitis; etc.) because there are issues with the way people row (i.e., their approaches or even mistakes as to technique) that contribute. For example, if a rower forces the back on in a way that is not smooth or out of proportion to his or her fitness, it is not surprising if the back aches as a result. That is not a fair reason to blame rowing any more than someone twisting an ankle by stepping off a curb without looking is a reason to blame walking. In addition, there are numerous possible contributing factors with regard to back pain; and the presence of one of those in a rower does not provide an indication that the rowing is to blame but just the opposite - the rower must know himself or herself and proceed accordingly. Similarly, if a rower moves the wrists unnecessarily while rowing or grips the handle or pulls with the wrists bent instead of flat, each such mistake may put unnecessary pressure or strain on tendons in the wrist. Those mistakes are not inherent to rowing; they are mistakes that are correctible and avoidable. It is the mistakes of the rower that may result in pain or injury, not rowing itself.

The recent publication of "The Boys in the Boat" is a reminder to attend to this misconception.  Early in the book, the author erroneously attributes a number of possible injuries to rowing. It is simply not fair to the sport and is an indication of the problems we face when a non-rower attempts to describe the rigors of the sport.

Rowing can be very demanding. It does not put the rower at risk of injury, however, except due to errors and/or self-abuse by the rower.

That is my opinion. What do you think?