Physiotherapists screen rowers with the intent of preventing injury BUT it is VERY important to recognise that what is seen in the clinic is not always what is seen when rowing a boat.
Having long hamstrings allows the rower to reach the end of the drive without the pelvis moving back too far and the low back moving into a more flexed (slumped) position. Less low back flexion in the rowing stroke has been linked to less likelihood of low back pain. It is an easy assumption to make that having long hamstrings will ensure that you do not get low back pain. However, the rower with long hamstrings may still move in a way in the boat that results in a ‘slump’ at the finish due to other reasons, this may include; a lack of abdominal strength and endurance or simply using a movement pattern that is ingrained and difficult to change.
You may ask ‘then why screen for hamstring length?’ This is a VERY good question.
It is important to screen for hamstring length as a rower will not be able to use optimal movement patterns in the boat without it. However, it is equally important to educate the rower about why it is important to change length using visual examples so they know what they are aspiring to.
It is equally important to ensure a individual rowers coach is aware of when the rower has adequate hamstring length so that a rower can be coached to use it and make a movement change that will sustain the length change.
Screening is not enough – education about how to protect your young growing body from injury and how to optimise movement patterns for improved performance are imperative.