Performance without injury in aquatic sports


The project aims to maximize performance in rowing, kayak and dragon boat while minimizing the propensity for injury by identifying the main factors that determine performance in both equipment and athlete in the real environment of the sport.


Professor Richard Smith

Research Location

Exercise, Health and Performance Research Group

Program Type



Competition at an elite level demands very high strength, endurance and expert application of technique, over the whole race distance. Athletes need the most efficient equipment available to maximally harness their inherent ability. Results from the world championships in the early 2000’s confirm that the margins between the placegetters have been decreasing and places are often divided by only tenths or hundredths of seconds, which is less than 0.1% of the time for a 1,000m race. Very small differences in the skill and fitness of the athlete and the efficiency of equipment, including all aspects of design, can determine the final placing in the competition. The aims of this project are to expand the knowledge base of functional oar/paddle operation, design oars and paddles that are matched to the requirements of particular body types, and to fine-tune athlete-boat interaction for maximum performance. The objectives are to:

  • Investigate the efficiency of different blade designs by measuring the magnitude, direction, and point of application of the reaction force of the water on the blade and the velocity of the blade relative to the water.
  • Determine the efficiency of the water craft in interaction with the anthropometric characteristics of the athlete.
  • Find the optimum stroke rate/stroke length combination for efficient power output to the water craft.
All modes of the sport have the backing of the peak body of the sport and both rowing and flat water kayak paddling have financial support from the Australian Research Council and industry partners.

Additional Information

Although many studies are conducted in the laboratory, the emphasis is on measurement in race or simulated race conditions on-water. The knowledge obtained from these field studies is used to build valid simulators for more in-depth (eg joint-by-joint) studies of the processes of power production from the athlete. Information from both these areas is used to build computer models of athlete-boat to gain further insight into the process of maximizing performance.

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Rowing, paddling, performance, drag, power output, inverse dynamics, injury, efficiency., Movement disorders, Health & lifestyle, Human body, Movement

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 101

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