Tag: injury

Training: Pushing hard and pain vs. soreness

Rowing Training & Nutrition

Training: Pushing hard and pain vs. soreness

Now that most of us (in the Northeast at least) are in the early stages of winter training, I wanted to deviate from talking about coxing for a minute to go over some training stuff that’ll hopefully help you guys make it through the next few months injury-free.

Related: Do you have any advice on dealing with a coach pressuring you to continue practicing through injury?

Runner’s World posted a great article last summer on the difference between pushing hard and overtraining where they described the goal of pushing hard as “stressing the body just beyond your fitness level to gradually increase the stress loads on your body and ensure recovery”. Their example was that if you’re doing six sets of intervals with three minutes rest, “pushing harder” might mean transitioning to eight intervals or reducing the rest to two minutes. You’re basically putting your body just far enough outside its comfort zone that it gradually begins adapting to the added stress and you, as a result, get stronger/fitter.

The hurdle that a lot of people hit though, particularly younger athletes or walk-ons who might be completely new to sports in general, is not knowing the difference between soreness and pain.


Soreness is there but it’s not in your face. It’s mainly concentrated on the muscles so when you’re working out you might feel some tightness in that area but while just going about your regular activities it shouldn’t be more than a dull ache that only really makes itself known if you’ve been inactive for awhile. Standing up after sitting through a long lecture or when you first get out of bed in the morning are when you might feel it the most.

When you’ll feel it the most is around 24-48 hours later, which is why it’s called delayed onset muscle soreness. As long as you stretch or roll out you should be OK to keep practicing, although it might be worth taking a day off from the erg and hopping on the bike or going for a run instead. If you get back on the erg the following day you might feel some lingering soreness but it shouldn’t be anything that actually detracts from the quality of the workout. If it is, spending a longer amount of time rolling out will usually help.


This is that sharp feeling that hits you all of a sudden in the middle of a piece or when you move a certain way, like bending over to pick something up. Rather than just being focused on the muscles, pain can/will extend to your joints too, which is when you start hearing about a “shooting pain” in the knees, shoulders, hips, and low back.

Unlike soreness which might hang around for a day or two at most, pain can be felt for several days at a time, sometimes consistently and other times off and on, even after taking time off to rest. It’s at this point where you should be making an appointment with the trainers or your doctor, particularly if it’s been a week or more without any improvement.

As your workouts get longer or ramp up in intensity, experiencing some soreness is inevitable but still manageable as long as you’re diligent about going through some sort of recovery sequence after practice. If you don’t have 10-15 minutes to spare because you’ve gotta get to class, make sure you’re holding yourself accountable and finding time to do it later in the day.

Sharp pains or anything that instantly makes you think “this isn’t a normal feeling” isn’t something you should push through because that’s what leads to an injury. Communicating that to your coach is important so that they’re aware of what’s going on and can adapt the workouts as necessary while you recover. Get over yourselves, put your egos aside, and keep your coaches informed if/when you’re not at 100%. 

I won’t lie and say they’re not gonna be annoyed or roll their eyes when you leave the office (sometimes we will be and sometimes we do – it’s our coping mechanism) but I can promise you that no coach who is serious about their job and cares about their athletes will make you work through an injury. In the post I linked to at the beginning I said that if it seems like they’re pushing you to keep practicing it’s usually because they’re skeptical about whether you’re actually in pain or if you’re just mistaking soreness for pain. Knowing the difference between the two and being able to clearly articulate how you feel, what you’re feeling, where you’re feeling it, etc. can go a long way in helping you recover faster because the sooner you communicate with them, the sooner they can give you time off, and the sooner you can start doing whatever’s necessary to get back to 100% (even if that literally means doing absolutely nothing at all).

For the coxswains, there’s obviously not a ton you can do here so my suggestion is to put your observation and awareness skills to the test and just keep an eye on  your teammates. If I see the guys grimacing on the ergs (beyond the usual amount) or get off mid-piece I always ask them if they’re OK and then follow up with them a little bit later or after practice to see how it’s going. From there I’ll pass on whatever they said to the other coaches since they’re not always aware that something’s up. One of our coxswains is really good about this and being that in tune with how the guys are feeling has done a lot as far as helping her connect and develop that trust with them.

Advocating for the rowers in situations like this can also fall on your shoulders. If the coaches are skeptical about what’s going on and/or the rower hasn’t communicated with them then you might need to be the one who says “hey, just so you know Sam’s been having some back pain over the last few days and I think the 30 minute piece this morning made it worse, which is why he didn’t finish it” or “I know we’re supposed to be seat racing today but Dan was pretty sick all weekend and still isn’t feeling well – any chance we can push it back to tomorrow?”.

Again, not gonna promise that they won’t roll their eyes or be annoyed but it’s not your responsibility to care about that. You’re the messenger and sometimes that means getting poked with an arrow when you’re passing along info that the other person doesn’t want to hear. It’s not that big of a deal. What is a big deal though and can help you earn their respect of the rowers is being aware of this stuff as it’s going on and advocating for them when they need it.

Image via // @cubcsquad

Q&A Teammates & Coaches Training & Nutrition

Question of the Day

Do you have any advice on dealing with a coach pressuring you to continue practicing through injury?

Three things:

Communicate with your coach

Most just want to make sure you’re not confusing discomfort with actual pain (which happens fairly often, hence the cautious skepticism on their part) so you have to actually explain what you’re feeling, how long it’s felt like that, when you notice it the most, etc. instead of just saying “my back hurts”. The more details you put out there the more likely your coaches are to understand that this is something serious and not just some lingering soreness.

Related: Hi!! I have a plica in my knee, I got the okay from our AT to row but it hurts a lot when I do. We’re in an erging stint right now and I don’t want to be seen as a slacker but I also don’t know if I can effectively do the workouts on the erg. I have no clue how to go about handling the situation.

Go to your doctor or trainer and get some professional feedback on what’s going on

Tell your coaches too that you’ve got an appointment set up so they see that you’re actively working on a solution to the problem. Most trainers on campus will directly communicate with the coaches to let them know that you came in, this is what they saw, etc. but you should still ask them if they can pass along the info to the coaches and then follow up a day or so later. They see a lot of athletes so do your due diligence and take the appropriate steps to ensure everyone that needs to be in the loop is actually in the loop.

Advocate for yourself

No one’s holding a gun to your head and making you erg, row, run, etc. If you’re injured and the trainer/doctor has said to take it easy for a few days then that’s what you’ve gotta do. I’m not blind to the fact that people want to keep their seat in the boat they’re in or they don’t want to sabotage their chances of competing for a seat in a higher boat but you seriously have to take a step back from that and look at the bigger picture. Is it really worth causing more damage, being out longer, getting sicker, etc. just to go out and half-ass your way through practice because you’re not feeling 100%? There are absolutely times when you should push through stuff but if you’ve got even a modicum of common sense you know the difference between those times and the times when you need to say (to your coach, not just in your head) “no, I need to take today off” or “I need to take it easy today”.

I know it can be hard to push back when your coach is pushing for you to keep practicing, (especially when you’re like, 15 years old) but if you don’t, especially after doing all the stuff I listed up above, then I honestly don’t know what to tell you. Like I said, no one’s holding a gun to your head and making you practice so if you know that rowing, erging, etc. isn’t the best course of action based on where your injury’s at right now, you’ve gotta stick to your guns and not be talked or guilt-tripped into doing something that’s gonna prolong the recovery process.

Ergs Q&A Teammates & Coaches Training & Nutrition

Question of the Day

Hi!! I have a plica in my knee, I got the okay from our AT to row but it hurts a lot when I do. We’re in an erging stint right now and I don’t want to be seen as a slacker but I also don’t know if I can effectively do the workouts on the erg. I have no clue how to go about handling the situation.

If your coaches and/or teammates think you’re a slacker because you’re trying to figure out how to come back from or manage an injury, you’ve got bigger problems to deal with.

In my experience, both as an athlete and since I’ve been coaching, the people that think they’re going to be seen as slackers or whatever when they’re dealing with an injury (or academic/personal issues) are the ones that do literally everything but communicate with their coach(es). If your coaches don’t know that something’s going on and they see you pulling splits that aren’t where they’re supposed to be then yea, they’re probably gonna be thinking you need to get your shit together. After a few days or weeks of this when they finally ask you what the deal is and you casually say “well I’ve been dealing with an injury for the past month” they’re just gonna be frustrated and annoyed that you never said anything to them and just let them assume that you were slacking off. That’s entirely on you too so you can’t get pissed at them if and when they verbalize their frustration at your lack of communication. The vast majority of coaches will be willing to work with you to help you stay healthy, recover properly, etc. but it’s your job to speak up and advocate for yourself when something is going on.

Related: Hey! At the end of the spring season I was one of the best rowers on my team. I had some of the strongest erg scores and was stroking the 1V8+. However I was rowing through an injury, it was a plica so there was no structural damage, and after receiving a cortisone shot, the pain went down a lot, so I was cleared to row though they said to go see another dr. over the summer for potential surgery. The Dr. I saw over the summer took an MRI and decided to try PT and an anti-inflammatory. She also said to limit my exercise to non-impact workouts, which pretty much meant no erging/rowing, running, or biking. I did do some swimming this summer and focused on building core strength. Now I’m back at school in pre-season, it definitely helped, and my knee is better. However my erg scores (obviously) haven’t been where they were and it’s been discouraging. I’ve been going to every practice to gain an advantage, before mandatory practice starts, but it’s so hard motivating myself to go when I know I’ll be in the middle of the pack, even though I know the only way to get better is by going. What’s worse is that my coach ignores me. This sucks because I’ve picked up that that’s what he does to the girls who maybe aren’t the top rowers on the team. Do you have any advice on how I can boost my moral?

The best and first thing you should do is meet with your coaches before your next practice and update them on what’s going on. Let them know that you’ve been cleared by the trainer (you can probably ask the trainer to email them too to let them know what they’ve seen and done with you so far) but that you’re still experiencing a lot of pain when you’re on the erg. This past winter we had two or three guys working through knee issues and they would typically bike during practice or if we were doing something like 7 x 10 minutes, they’d start on the ergs, do 3-4 pieces, and then get on the bike for the last few. Another guy would go to the pool on campus and swim for 90 minutes. Try proposing one of those options and/or get some recommendations from the trainer for alternate workouts and then let your coaches know where things stand.

Regardless of how off-putting your coach might be, which I fully get is why some people are hesitant to tell them they’re injured, it’s still in your best interest to tell them stuff like this sooner rather than later.

(Another reason) Why you need a working cox box


(Another reason) Why you need a working cox box

Below is an email I received from a coxswain who wanted to share her experience of coxing without a working cox box. I will never understand programs that look at cox boxes as an option rather than a necessity or say that sending them in to be repaired, serviced, whatever is too much effort, too expensive, etc. Cox boxes are expensive, yes, but so are boats and oars and riggers and you rarely, if ever, see programs so flippantly write off issues that arise with them. So … why are cox boxes any different?

“I’ve been following your blog for a while now and I have seen several stories and questions about not having a cox box. I just wanted to share my story about not having one.

My freshman year of high school I decided that I wanted to try out for crew. I was put as the coxswain because I was one of the smaller girls. At the start of the season, our team had 4 varsity 4s (coxed) and the novice team had an 8 and 2 extras. Between the time the season started and when we really started to learn how to row effectively, more girls had joined which gave the novice team an 8, a 4 (coxed), and an extra. The eight was the worst boat and I was given that boat because the other coxswain was better than I. I didn’t have any problem with that because I wanted our team to be fast.

Since our freshman year (I am now a sophomore) both the other coxswain and I did crew in the fall and spring of freshman year and fall of sophomore year. This spring season however, she decided that she wanted to do lacrosse. Now I am going to get to cox the second boat – in the fall I was in fourth boat because there are only 2 experienced coxswains. But my story really starts with the eight novice year.

Our school has a total of 8 boxes. Box “A” is the newest and the best. Box “B” is the next best. Box “C” is third best (and mine for this fall season). Box “D” is fourth best. Those are the four varsity boxes. The novice boxes aren’t named because they change hands ever year. One of the boxes that we have really does not work at all but another one works fairly well. The last box, my box for my novice season, did not work in the eight or the novice four and was just really staticky in the varsity boats. I brought this up to the coach and he said that there was nothing that we could do so I should just try and yell. IN AN EIGHT. I some how managed to make my self heard and when the other coxswain and I switched halfway through the year we kept our boxes because at this point I was pretty good at projecting my voice so my rowers could hear me. Now though I was in a bow loader four.

At some point along this path I had developed a cough that sounded uncannily like a goose. Like not even kidding, the geese on the dock would honk back at me. Now this cough didn’t really bother me, it was just part of who I was and it didn’t hurt. My rowers though told me to go to the doctor. Being a silly fourteen year-old, I did not connect the cough to the coxing so I continued as normal. Fast forward through the winter (during which I play ice hockey) and the spring season (when I decided that I wanted to try rowing for some unknown reason). My cough continued but was less noticeable. Spring season ended. At our school spring sports end before finals start and at the end of the two week finals I get a cold (right before my oral Chinese final…). Of course along with a cold comes a cough. At first they were just normal coughs but towards the end of my cold they turned in to the dry deep coughs I refer to as my “goose cough”.

I took the first two weeks of summer off from doing anything and my cough continued. Soon though my summer job started up. At my summer job I biked 7 miles to a pool and then helped with swim lessons for the morning. I also knew that I was going to take the life guarding course at the end of the summer so I started swimming laps. I used to be able to swim laps with pretty good stamina but now I started getting out of breath after one lap. This shortness of breath continued throughout the summer and continued getting worse. Eventually at the end of the summer I had to go to the doctors for my regular physical. I mentioned my breathing problem and my doctor said it will probably pass and not to worry about it so I didn’t. Well a couple weeks later I’m back for some reason and I mention that it had gotten worse and she was able to hear me cough because I had been slightly sick. Without running any tests she “diagnosed” asthma and prescribed an inhaler, which didn’t really help. I went back to tell her that and she put me on another inhaler that was every morning and night rather than as needed like the other one was and yeah, it really didn’t help. It made me dizzy, tired, and was such a hassle.

Now school starts again and my breathing gets to the point were I am out of breath when walking down the hallway and I simply can’t do stairs. The crew team decides to go run Harvard stadium for a workout and the coxswains decided as a group that we would do this workout with the team, so I took along my inhaler. To warm up we run once around the stadium. I used my inhaler and tried to jog with them. I managed to get around but it was a very big struggle. We start to run the stairs and I do the first section with lots of problems. By section 3 I have to take the inhaler again because I physically can not get air in. I made the decision to stupidly do at least half of all the sections because … I was stupid. I took probably 8 puffs by the time we were done with 30 of the sections. Cut to the car ride home and the entire way I could not breathe. My mother was close to turning around and bringing me to the emergency room. She didn’t but made an appointment for me with a pulmonologist (lung doctor). He had me do a bunch of tests and when they gave me the asthma medication they normally used, my breathing capacity went down. So they gave me the proper tool to use the inhaler with and sent me on my way with a follow up appointment in 6 weeks.

I go back in six weeks and – surprise surprise – the medications are not working. They take me off them and suggest a possibility that had not previously been discussed. They asked me if I had ever misused my voice for extended periods of time and I was like “yeah try the whole fall season my freshman year.” They said I most likely had something called vocal chord dysfunction where the vocal chords actually close when you try and breathe, making it feel like you can’t get any breaths in. This perfectly described my situation and they put me on a different medication that mostly worked for the first couple of weeks (as in I no longer get out of breath walking down the hall) but I am still not completely well. I go back in two weeks and they will probably change my meds to better fit my needs (probably a stronger dose or something). And who knows, I might not ever be completely better. My breathing problems at one point made it so I was afraid I was going to faint while walking to chemistry class.

DO NOT LET ANYONE COX WITH OUT A BOX BECAUSE IT MIGHT CAUSE PERMANENT DAMAGE. I shared this story because I wanted to tell someone how dangerous coxing without a box is. By the way, love the blog, it has definitely helped me improve. Thanks for reading.”

I know I’ve talked to several of you recently via email about similar breathing/coughing issues so if this isn’t something you’ve already explored as the cause, I’d talk with your parents about it and make an appointment with your doctor as soon as you’re able.

Thanks to the coxswain who I sent this in, I appreciate it and I’m sure other coxswains (and their parents) will too.

Image via // @ryanjnicholsonphoto

Q&A Rowing Technique

Question of the Day

Hi! I’ve been rowing for four years and recently I’ve been getting some sort of tendonitis in my forearms: the forearm swells up a little and it feels very stiff and it is very painful to row with. This usually happens when I’m in a single or a double, but it has happened before in an eight and a quad. It has never happened to me so often, last year I got this twice throughout the season, but it went away the same day. I’ve talked to my coach and he said I might be gripping too much with my fingers, I’ve changed my grip since then and it was fine for a few weeks, however over the course of this week, it has come back and I’m not sure what I am doing wrong. I know it’s caused when I row long distances and when my forearms tense at the catch, but I don’t think that there is any other way to row (without tensing the forearms at the catch), when I relax my arms I end up pulling more with my fingers. As far as I’m aware, no one else in my crew has this although some say that they have had it before, but very rarely. I was just wondering if you had any tips for correcting my stroke if it is what is causing this? Thank you.

I definitely agree with your coach, I think you’ve got a bit of a death grip thing going on. If you made adjustments though and the pain came back then I’d probably recommend checking in with your doctor just to make sure there’s nothing else going on. At the very least they’ll likely be able to give you a stronger anti-inflammatory than your standard over-the-counter Ibuprofen that might help with the pain.

As far as tips for correcting your stroke, I really think loosening your grip is the biggest/best technical correction you can make right now. It’s a sequential thing too; if your upper body (i.e. upper back and shoulders) is relaxed, your arms will be relaxed, and that will lead to you having a more relaxed grip. If your upper body is tense, which it sounds like it probably is, then your forearms and grip are going to be tense as a result. When you’re at the catch, you want to maintain what I like to call a “common sense grip” – not too tight but tight enough that you have control of the handle – and make sure you’re unweighting the handle rather than lifting it in. If you’re lifting it in then that’s going to contribute to the tension you feel in your forearms. Tension’s not really the right word but if you’re going to feel “tension” anywhere it should be in your lat muscles as you lock on to the water.

From there it gets a bit harder for me to guess what you can do so definitely make sure you’re discussing this with your coach, having them watch you on the water, look for specific technical flaws, etc. and then go from there. Start with the grip thing though, for sure.

College Q&A Training & Nutrition

Question of the Day

Hey so this is kind of a follow up to a question I asked earlier about not training over the summer due to plica. So a lot of girls came back out of shape and our coach hasn’t been happy with our scores. My captain/roommate told me that he’s thinking he’s going to withdraw one of our HOCR entries because he’s so upset about it. My coach did know about my injury but I’m really scared to approach him. He’s a great coach, but I’m just a nervous person/easily intimidated. Any advice?

Ah yea, I can understand being nervous after hearing something like that but you shouldn’t consider it to be a fact until you hear your coach say it himself. It’s possible he just said what he said out of frustration and not because pulling one of the entries is something he’s actually considering doing. He could be totally serious too but don’t get caught up in the rumor mill, even if it’s coming from someone you trust. I still think it’d be in your best interest to talk with him though and let him know where you’re at with your recovery. Acknowledge that you know he’s been less than impressed with where everyone’s at fitness-wise and you don’t want to make excuses for your scores or anything like that but this is what the doctors recommended you do over the summer, this is where you’re at now, and this is your plan going forward.

One of the things you have to consider too – and I know this is probably the last thing you want to hear – is whether you’ll be 100% by the time HOCR lineups are finalized. Basically what I’m saying is I wouldn’t try to rush your training over the next 2-3 weeks to achieve some stellar results just to make it into one of those boats because you could ultimately end up injuring yourself again (and even worse this time). This is another reason why I’d recommend talking with your coach. Ultimately the fall season doesn’t count towards anything and it really doesn’t matter that much in the long run. You’ll likely be much more valuable to your team in the spring so you’ve got to weigh the options and determine whether it’s worth it to go all out to make an HOCR lineup or take the fall slow and get back to where you were so that by the time your winter training trip rolls around you’re back on form and ready to go. You would definitely want your coach’s advice and opinion on that so again, set up a time to meet with him and go from there.

College Q&A Teammates & Coaches Training & Nutrition

Question of the Day

Hey! At the end of the spring season I was one of the best rowers on my team. I had some of the strongest erg scores and was stroking the 1V8+. However I was rowing through an injury, it was a plica so there was no structural damage, and after receiving a cortisone shot, the pain went down a lot, so I was cleared to row though they said to go see another dr. over the summer for potential surgery. The Dr. I saw over the summer took an MRI and decided to try PT and an anti-inflammatory. She also said to limit my exercise to non-impact workouts, which pretty much meant no erging/rowing, running, or biking. I did do some swimming this summer and focused on building core strength. Now I’m back at school in pre-season, it definitely helped, and my knee is better. However my erg scores (obviously) haven’t been where they were and it’s been discouraging. I’ve been going to every practice to gain an advantage, before mandatory practice starts, but it’s so hard motivating myself to go when I know I’ll be in the middle of the pack, even though I know the only way to get better is by going. What’s worse is that my coach ignores me. This sucks because I’ve picked up that that’s what he does to the girls who maybe aren’t the top rowers on the team. Do you have any advice on how I can boost my moral?

Ah yes, I’m familiar with plica syndrome. I’m pretty sure the chondromalacia that the doctors say I have in the knee I dislocated is actually this. It’s definitely not a pleasant thing to deal with – I can’t believe you rowed through it! I wouldn’t keep doing that though if it starts acting up again just because you will, without question, end up exacerbating the problem and ultimately end up with an injury that is way more severe than this one and will keep you off the water for an even longer period of time.

Even though your erg scores aren’t where you want them to be right now, I think you can at least take comfort in knowing that they’re where they are for a legitimate reason and not because you were lazy and sat around on your ass all summer. There’s nothing wrong with being in the middle of the pack either. I know people look at it as some colossal failure if they were previously at the head of the pack but it’s really not that big of a deal. If you’re relatively in shape then you shouldn’t have any issue getting back to where you were in a reasonable amount of time.

Instead of focusing on getting your scores back to where they were just focus on improving where you’re at right now. If you’re currently pulling (for example) a 1:55 split for a 2k but your PR is a 1:46 then yea, no wonder you’re discouraged. That’s a lot of time to try and make up. Stop focusing on the 1:46 though and instead work on making small improvements on the 1:55. Eventually you’ll get back to where you were but it’ll be a lot easier if you set more reasonable goals for yourself (i.e. like maintaining a 1:53 on your next test…). Being able to knock off small goals on your way to a larger one is much more motivating and better for morale.

If you think your coach is ignoring you, set up a one-on-one meeting with him sometime this week so you can update him on what your doctors told you, what you did this summer in terms of working out, and what your plan is to get your times back to where they were. If he doesn’t have any idea as to what’s going on and it just looks like you came back to campus out of shape then I can understand why he’d be annoyed. I don’t necessarily condone ignoring you for it but I can at least where he might be coming from. Clue him in and go from there. I would also touch base with the sports med staff that works with your team and work something out with them too, that way you can tell your coach that you met/will be meeting with them so that he sees that you’re serious about taking care of yourself and you’re not being flippant about this whole situation.

College Q&A Training & Nutrition

Question of the Day

This winter I got injured. I’ve tried different treatments but haven’t had success. I tried cortisone shots but that made my pain worse. From what I’ve been told it seems like my next step is surgery. Though it’s arthroscopic the recovery time is 4-6 weeks. I’m terrified of the surgery and upset over maybe missing my first college spring season. Do you have any words of wisdom to help me through this? Also if I competed in the fall would I be able to redshirt or would I have had to be out in the fall?

Regarding redshirting, here’s a copy and paste of what it says in the NCAA Rulebook. I’ve bolded the important parts to make it easier to understand. If you want to look it up yourself it’s Bylaw 14.2.4, “Hardship Waiver”, but it’d be in your best interest to go talk to your compliance officer about it since they know the rule book and logistics surrounding everything far better than I do.

“A student-athlete may be granted an additional year of competition by the conference or the Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement for reasons of “hardship.” Hardship is defined as an incapacity resulting from an injury or illness that has occurred under all of the following conditions:

(a) The incapacitating injury or illness occurs in one of the four seasons of intercollegiate competition at any two-year or four-year collegiate institutions or occurs after the first day of classes in the student-athlete’s senior year in high school;

(b) The injury or illness occurs prior to the first competition of the second half of the playing season that concludes with the NCAA championship in that sport (see Bylaw and results in incapacity to compete for the remainder of that playing season;

(c) In team sports, the injury or illness occurs when the student-athlete has not participated in more than three contests or dates of competition (whichever is applicable to that sport) or 30 percent (whichever number is greater) of the institution’s scheduled or completed contests or dates of competition in his or her sport. Only scheduled or completed competition against outside participants during the playing season that concludes with the NCAA championship, or, if so designated, during the official NCAA championship playing season in that sport (e.g., spring baseball, fall soccer), shall be countable under this limitation in calculating both the number of contests or dates of competition in which the student-athlete has participated and the number of scheduled or completed contests or dates of competition during that season in the sport.

Dates of competition that are exempted (e.g., alumni contests, foreign team in the United States) from the maximum permissible number of contests or dates of competition shall count toward the number of contests or dates in which the student-athlete has participated and the number of scheduled or completed contests or dates of competition in the season, except for scrimmages and exhibition contests that are specifically identified as such in the sport’s Bylaw 17 playing and practice season regulations. Scrimmages and exhibition contests that are not exempted from the maximum permissible number of contests or dates of competition may be excluded from the calculation only if they are identified as such in the sport’s Bylaw 17 playing and practice season regulations.

(There’s a part “d” but it applies to individual sports, which rowing is not, so I didn’t include it.)

If you raced in the fall I don’t think that matters since part “b” says the injury has to happen before the first competition of the second half of the season that ends with the NCAA championships. Talk to your compliance person to be sure though. All that being said, you have to be able to provide proof (aka medical documentation from the athletic trainers and your doctors/surgeons) that the injury is season-ending. I’m not saying yours isn’t or couldn’t be considered that but an arthroscopic surgery with a recovery time of 4-6 weeks might make the rules committee question its severity.

Be realistic too, do you really want to stay in school any longer than necessary just to say you raced all four seasons? This is just my opinion obviously but there’s no way I’d shell out an extra semester or year’s worth of tuition just to row for another season. If I was a football or basketball player with serious NFL/NBA potential, I’d probably consider it (then again, I’d also probably be on scholarship which would make it an easier decision) but for rowing, I don’t think so.

If none of the therapies you’ve tried so far have worked and the doctors are saying the next step is surgery then you should probably have the surgery. Admittedly I’m a terrible person to ask about things like this because if I’m injured I’m just gonna do whatever I’ve gotta do to get back on the water. Being scared of having the surgery is a totally foreign concept to me because I tend to take a very pragmatic approach to these kinds of situations. I’d rather get knocked out for a few hours and be in some pain for a few days afterwards but know that the problem is fixed than be in a consistent amount of pain for weeks, months, or years on end because I’m afraid of the scalpel or whatever. Anyways, that’s just my point of view. If you look up any college roster you’ll probably see at least two or three rowers with “sat out their sophomore season due to medical hardship” or “redshirted their freshman year” in their bios. It’s not uncommon.

My advice? Schedule the surgery ASAP, get it done, and be extremely diligent with your rehab. You could conceivably be back before the end of the season if you had the surgery soon and while you might not be in the best boat, you could probably still vie for a spot in a boat. Something is better than nothing, right? Don’t rush anything though. If the doctors say you need to take the season off, do it.

College Q&A Rowing Training & Nutrition

Question of the Day

I’m a college freshman, last semester I was one of the top rowers on the team, over winter break I tried to keep in shape but I was having back and knee pain so it was minimal. I came back slightly out of shape but got back into the rhythm. This semester has been a lot more competitive as far as erg scores and recently I’ve been having more knee pain. I’ve been going to the athletic trainer but they’re not 100% sure what it is, but they think it is my meniscus. There are days when I can’t erg because of the pain so I’ve been on the bike. When I do erg my scores are really bad (bad for me). It gets me really frustrated and I’m letting this injury get to me. I get flustered over bad workouts and it kills me inside when I can’t erg. I want my knee to get better, but I don’t want to take time off and fall behind and not make the 1st boat. It’s especially important this year because we’re going to Women’s Henley this summer. Any suggestions on getting over this mental block? (PS I was never told not to erg, so it’s not like I’m working out against what I was told to do.)

I sympathize with being injured and not being able to work out and I get how frustrating it is psychologically when you know you’re capable of performing better but what I don’t and never will understand – and this goes for everyone – is why athletes refuse to take the time off to let their injuries properly heal before they start trying to work out again. What is logical about pushing through an injury, being 50% all season, and then having to take off more time later when you could take the time off now, come back at 90-100%, and be in a much better position to contend for a spot in the top boat? There’s not always going to be an answer for every ache and pain and usually in those situations when the doctor says the best thing you can do for it is to rest, he’s not blowing you off or giving you some bullshit answer. That really is exactly what you need to do. Just because you weren’t told not to erg doesn’t mean you should keep doing it.

If it is your meniscus, being on the bike is just as bad as being on the erg or going for a run. I’ve had a dislocated knee before and have dealt with years of pain as a result. It was always thought that I’d partially torn one of the ligaments and my meniscus but since they were very minimal the doctors said they’d heal themselves and I’d be fine without surgery. The pain started acting up again pretty badly two years ago and I also thought it was my meniscus that was the issue. With all the traveling, walking, stair climbing, getting in and out of boats, etc. that I’d been doing it seemed like a legitimate possibility that I might have irritated it in some way.

When I went to the hospital to have it looked at, the two doctors I spoke with both told me to avoid anything outside of normal activity that could aggravate it further, which included biking since bending my knee (even slightly) was excruciating and it was thought that if I did have a torn meniscus that biking could tear it more if the already-torn flap became caught in the joint (which would then lead to a locking of the knee, which is when the torn part is caught in the joint and doesn’t allow the knee to straighten all the way).

The issue isn’t that you’re letting this injury get to you … the injury is getting to you because you’re not taking any time off. This isn’t a “mental block” situation. You can want your knee to get better all you want but until you suck it up and realize that that means no erging, no biking, no nothing until you figure out exactly what the issue is, you’re going to keep experiencing the same physical and mental pain that you’re dealing with right now. Do you honestly think that you or anyone else is 1st boat material when you’re not 100% anyways? I wouldn’t even consider putting someone in the first 8+ if I knew they were injured, regardless of how minor or severe it was. If you’re not 100% you can’t give 100%, simple as that.

I’ve said this a few times already to other people and I’ll say it again: there are few things within this sport that piss me off more than people who don’t take care of themselves, regardless of whether it’s conscious or not. Why does it irritate me so much? Because it’s not all about you. If one person is injured, the other eight people in your boat all might as well be injured too. Ignoring your injury and thinking you’re “pushing through it” for your teammates is bullshit. Ignoring and pushing through it so you can be in a good boat is even more bullshit. Anyone that needs me to explain why that is should seriously reevaluate your definition of what a team sport and team player is.

How to: (Cold) Water safety

How To Teammates & Coaches

How to: (Cold) Water safety

So … your boat flipped.What do you do?

Recently in exchanging emails with other rowers and coxswains a slightly scary trend emerged in that it seemed like a lot of coaches aren’t going over water safety with their athletes. There is a video from USRowing that everyone is supposed to watch but that thing is so ridiculous that it’s unlikely that the majority of people who do see it actually pay attention to what’s being said or demonstrated. (Raise your hand if you’ve seen it and the only thing you remember is the part about crabs.) Some people have said their team doesn’t even show it anymore because of that exact reason.

This is a problem though because what if something happens while you’re out and you end up in the water? It makes me incredibly nervous when an experienced coxswain says “our four flipped today, the water was freezing, and none of us knew what to do”. (That’s from an actual email I got.) If you don’t know what to do if/when this happens, I honestly can’t imagine a more dangerous situation to be in.

There are a couple different aspects to water safety but what this post is going to focus on is the basics of what you should do if you and your crew end up outside of your boat and the effects that cold water in particular can have on your body. Every aspect of water safety is important but in my opinion these two things rank at the top of the list, particularly right now since some crews are going to be entertaining the idea of getting back on the water within the next couple weeks.

If your boat submerges or flips

The first thing you must do is remain calm. This is not the time to be throwing blame, trying to figure out what happened, laughing because “haha this sucksss“, etc. The good thing in this situation is that regardless of how much water is in the shell (or if it flips) it will still float. The oars will also float and can be used by everyone to hold on to. Because the hull floats, it’s not necessary to remove the oars from the oarlocks so it’s best to just keep them in there. Coxswains, you should grab on to your stroke’s oar – don’t worry, it will support both of you – and quickly do a head count to ensue everyone is accounted for. This might not be easy to do, particularly in the heat of the moment when you’re likely a little panicked, so it’s crucial that the rowers do their best to stay quiet. Similarly to how backseat coxing isn’t OK in a normal situation, it’s even less OK now.

Once you’re sure everyone has been accounted for, the next thing to do is keep everyone with the boat. Do not try to swim to shore. I don’t care if you’re the second coming of Michael Phelps, do. not. leave. your. boat. It is very, very easy to underestimate the distance to shore or how you’ll be affected by the elements (air/water temperature, wind, the current, fatigue, etc.), which can lead to you drowning. When you’re going against the elements and/or are in cold water, being a good swimmer is at most a psychological advantage and nothing more.

The vast majority of the time you will likely have a launch nearby that will already be on its way to you. If the launch is in sight but doesn’t see you in the water, yell, scream, make as much noise as possible to try and get their attention. The launches are required to carry life jackets on board so once it comes over the coach will distribute them and get everyone out of the water. When getting out of the water and into the launch, distributing everyone’s weight is going to be important in ensuring that the launch doesn’t also start to sink. Keeping a low center of gravity will also be important.

If you want to know what not to do … ever … like, EVER … watch this video.

The one good thing about that video is at the end they show how you should get the boat out of the water once you’re back on land. First, you’ve got to bail out as much water as you can using buckets or a pump. Next, you’ll need to get hands on (probably at least two boats worth) and pick it up a little so you can tilt it on it’s side (do not rest the riggers on the dock) and let more of the water flow out. The next step is to get it up and over heads. Yea, it’s gonna be a waterfall and yes, you’re gonna get wet (see here). From here the coxswain will tell you to tilt it left, then right, then left, then right to get even more water out. When you do this you’ll want to make sure the bow and stern caps are open too. (They should always be closed when you’re on the water.)

What should you do while you’re waiting for someone to come get you?

The most important things are keeping your head above water and continuing to talk to one another so that everyone stays alert and conscious. You’ll also want to turn your backs to the waves if the water is choppy. When the air/water temperature is on the colder side, getting everyone on the same side of the boat can give you a little bit of warmth. In this situation I’d recommend linking arms while holding on to the gunnels or riggers, just as another way to ensure everyone stays above water.

Coxswains, you should always stick with the stern pair. Remember, the hull floats, so if the water is particularly cold or you need to get someone out of the water, you can climb (gently) on to the boat and drape yourself across it. If the boat is submerged (but still right side up) then you can roll it over (you can leave the oars in the oarlocks, just make sure everyone is out of the way), which will trap air underneath it and allow it to sit up just a little bit higher out of the water.

What happens to the body in the cold water?

A few things.

You lose body heat 25-30x faster when you’re submerged in cold water compared to just sitting in the open air.

Your gut reaction is going to tell you to keep moving and tread water in order to generate heat. It doesn’t work like that when you’re submerged in cold water though. This will actually cause you to lose body heat faster, which will increase the rate at which hypothermia sets in. You need to stay still, stay upright, and keep your head above water

Within 10-15 minutes your core temp begins to drop, causing your arms and legs to go dumb and eventually resulting in a loss in consciousness (which then could lead to drowning).

You’ll start shivering as a way to generate more body heat and as hypothermia sets in (around 95 degrees Fahrenheit), it will become more intense and you’ll lose the ability to voluntarily stop shaking. When the body temp reaches around 90 degrees Fahrenheit you’ll stop shivering completely because it’s no longer effective. This is usually a sign that you’re in serious danger because after you stop shivering the rate at which you lose body heat rapidly accelerates.

How can I tell if I or one of my teammates is hypothermic?

There are several stages of hypothermia ranging from pre-hypothermia to severe hypothermia. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to remember every detail of each stage but the most important stage to watch out for is the “pre” and “mild” stage symptoms. If you recognize that someone is showing these signs then you can get them out of the water and up onto the hull. This is why it’s very important that you keep talking to each other.

Pre-hypothermia (body temp is around 95-96 degrees Fahrenheit)

Physical symptoms: Hands and feet become stiff and sore as circulation decreases and muscle tension increases due to shivering (although at this stage you can still voluntarily stop). You might also start feeling tired and lethargic, symptoms that could be exacerbated by the fact that you were most likely just rowing.

Mental symptoms: For the most part, you’ll most likely still be all there.

Mild hypothermia (body temp has decreased to 90-94 degrees Fahrenheit)

Physical symptoms: You can no longer control your shivering, your fine motor skills are deteriorating (making it difficult to hold on to things, which is another reason why linking arms with the person beside you with one arm and with the oar or rigger with the other is important), your heart rate and breathing have increased (because of the shivering), and your speech will start slurring.

You might also notice that you spontaneously start peeing – this is pretty standard as part of the fight-or-flight response (and also because you’ve probably been drinking a lot of water) and occurs because the majority of your blood volume is migrating to your core in order to protect the vital organs. The downside to this is that it can rapidly lead to dehydration (you can read about some of the effects of that towards the end of this post).

This is the point where you need to get out of the water to prevent losing any more of your body heat. Hopefully your teammates have recognized this and are taking the necessary steps to get you on top of the hull. When draping them across the hull, don’t just get them on there and go back to where you were. Stay on either side of them and hold on to their arms and legs to keep them from sliding off.

Mental symptoms: You’ll start becoming confused, maybe unaware of your surroundings or how you ended up in the water. Doing simple things like counting from 1-10 or saying everyone’s names can be difficult to do.

Moderate hypothermia (body temp has decreased even further to 83-88 degrees Fahrenheit)

Physical symptoms: At this point, your body is no longer getting anything out of shivering so it stops. Your speech is very slow and you probably sound like you’re drunk when you try and talk. Your muscles have become very stiff and your heart rate and breathing has decreased dramatically. Because your breathing has slowed, less oxygen is getting to your tissues which results in less body heat being produced. If you’re still in the water at this point, the likelihood of you breathing in water (and drowning) has increased because your cough reflex is no longer functioning.

Mental symptoms: You’re operating under pure confusion right now and probably feel like taking a nap.

Severe hypothermia (body temp is now below 82 degrees Fahrenheit)

Physical symptoms: At this stage you’re dangerously teetering on the edge of the point of no return. Your heart rate will be extremely slow and your breathing will be very shallow and less stable. Your teammates will probably think you’re dead based on physical appearance. Drowning is a very likely and very real possibility if you’re still in the water. Even if your teammates were able to get you up on to the hull, waves can still present a threat to water entering your nose and/or mouth.

Mental symptoms: You’re unconscious.

How long will it take for these symptoms to set in?

This all depends on the water temperature. The colder it is though, the more rapidly the onset of symptoms will be. According to USRowing, if it’s under 32 degrees you could be unconscious in as little as 15 minutes. In water that’s around 40-50 degrees, it could be up to an hour before you reach unconsciousness. It’s important to remember that just because you’re out of the water once you’re on the launch or back on land doesn’t mean you’re safe from the effects of hypothermia, especially if you’re still in wet clothes.

Check out this video. Some of the stuff doesn’t necessarily apply to rowing (basically everything involving life jackets) but overall it does a pretty good job of communicating the dangers of being submerged in cold water. (I promise, it’s not super corny or anything and is only ten minutes long.)

So, moral of the story is this: stay out of the water but if for whatever reason you end up in the water, make sure everyone is accounted for, try to get the attention of your coaches, keep everyone talking, and watch for signs of hypothermia in yourself and your teammates. Also, bring up the subject of water safety with your coaches and have them go over it with everyone if they haven’t already. It’s important stuff that everybody needs to know.