Athlete Health

Read on for information, articles and advice on how to look after your body as a rower.

Healthy athlete on rowing machine

Guidance from the British Rowing Medical Panel

Back pain and rowers

Seek advice from a health professional if you experience any unusual back pain or if the back pain lasts for longer than 48 hours without showing signs of settling. Seek medical advice if you intend to train with persistent unnatural back pain. Ensure that any medication you take conforms with British Rowing’s rules.

Click the button below for guidance from the British Rowing Medical Panel on how to avoid back pain.

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British Rowing logo

Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S)

RED-S is a significant health condition that affects performance. It is caused by a mismatch between energy intake and expenditure.

RED-S doesn’t just affect female athletes – read on for more information.

Information Booklet

What is RED-S?

Energy is used for many things besides just your sport-specific training (work, study, socialising, walking the dog). Low energy availability means the body is unable to perform all its functions effectively resulting in a range of health & performance consequences. Similar to a phone running in ‘low power’ mode, the body can continue to function with RED-S, but at a much lower capacity.

What are the symptoms?

This list is non-exhaustive.

An increase in:

  • Illness and injury
  • Repeated rib bone stress
  • Menstrual irregularity
  • Erectile dysfunction

A decrease in:

  • Performance
  • Strength
  • Stamina
  • Recovery
  • Immunity
  • Moods
  • Metabolism
  • Coordination


The key to preventing RED-S is ensuring adequate energy intake and recovery in relation to daily activity and exercise needs.

Low energy availability may occur due to a misunderstanding of energy requirements or as a result of intentional changes in eating habits. Things to consider:

  • Training volume across a week, month & year can be significantly different with regard to energy requirements – energy intake should be modified to reflect this
  • Fuel well before training by consuming a carbohydrate-based meal or snack.
    Consume a well-balanced meal containing carbohydrates, protein and vegetables as soon as possible after training
  • Ensure you are eating enough meals and snacks throughout the day. Eat at regular intervals and avoid excluding foods or food groups unless you have a medical reason
  • Avoid unhelpful (or unscientifically supported) sources of nutrition or training advice, including social media accounts which promote unrealistic comparisons. Instead, focus on working with the body you already possess.

More resources

If you think you have symptoms of RED-S, book a consultation with your doctor. It may be helpful to bring the above information booklet with you. 

Female athletes on landing stage, rowing in red shorts

Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY)

Young, fit people can have heart conditions that they’re unaware of until tragedy strikes. Screening helps identify those at risk and preventing young sudden cardiac deaths.

The Charity CRY offers subsidised ECG and Echocardiogram screening to all young people between the ages of 14 and 35.

Find out more
Cardian Risk in the Young logo

Common Athlete Health Issues

In rowing, common injuries tend to appear due to overuse and overload. Here are a few ways you can look out for your physical health.

8 top tips for reducing injury

There is no one reason why injuries occur, they tend to be a combination of factors which accumulate and ultimately lead to the body breaking down. Here are some ideas which can help you to reduce the likelihood of an injury occurring.

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Blisters on your hands happen due to the constant friction between your hand and the oar handle – either from high mileage or from gripping too hard. Find our top tips for prevention and management below.

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Further information:

Skin to win: Looking after your hands and buttocks

Calloused hands

Rowing with health conditions

Rowing and neurodivergence

Understand the strengths that neurodivergent people can bring to a crew, and how coaches and fellow athletes can optimise their experience.

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Rowing with a hearing impairment

Finds out how to ensure that rowing is safe and enjoyable for those who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH).

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Knee problems in young rowers

Knee problems (alongside shoulder issues) are the second most prominent injuries in young rowers after back injuries. Find out why this is and what athletes and their coaches can do to reduce the risk of injury.

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Rowing with arthritis

Developing arthritis needn’t mean the end of your rowing career. Find out how much you can do.

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Rowing during cancer treatment

With sensible precautions and a supportive medical team, you may well be able to continue exercising and even rowing through your treatment and beyond.

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Rowing with asthma

Learn how rowers with respiratory issues can manage their condition.

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Female Athlete Health

Find a series of articles below for rowers and their coaches on female health.

Maximising your health and performance

GB Rowing Team Sport Scientist Sarah Moseley explores female health and spotlights areas that female athletes may need to adjust to optimise their performance.

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The power of the menstrual cycle

GB Rowing Team Sport Scientist Sarah Moseley explains the menstrual cycle to help athletes and coaches understand the impact it can have on health and fitness goals.

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Period practicalities for rowers, coaches and clubs

Clubs can take simple steps to support women and girls when they are on their period. Lebby Eyres shares suggestions from junior, senior and masters rowers.

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The importance of female health

On International Women’s Day Dr Emma Ross talks about the importance of exploring female athlete health to Rebecca Charlton.

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Yoga and rowing

Recovery and stretching are an important part of training. Try out these four post-training yoga stretches in under 10 minutes after your next session.