Sophie Harris is a veteran pararower who is one of the first I got to know when I first started the Marlow RC programme years ago. She came up from Devon to do some training at Marlow and she stayed with us for the visit. She has been a leader in UK pararowing especially adaptive coastal rowing, she keynoted the LoveRowing launch, and she has been an active regional advocate in the southwest. As she describes below, she has an below-the-knee amputation and shares her perspectives on the opportunities and issues around rowing with this type of impairment:
Can you row as an amputee?:
Hi, I’m Sophie 37 from Devon and I took up rowing in December 2016 when I was four weeks away from my very much needed but elective trans tibial amputation. Reasons behind the choice I made was for a congenital birth condition Talipes- Equinovarus or more commonly known as Club foot. I also suffered with Arthritis and Chronic regional pain syndrome the latter returned sadly but is managed to an extent.
As a child I loved being around water and come close to swimming for Devon, the thought of rowing was always on my mind, and I thought why not just bite the bullet especially as I didn’t know how things would be post-surgery and I knew from my taster sessions with Mayflower offshore RC that I had found something I enjoy and ironically nonclinical.
June 2017 I was in bed thinking how I could row, is this even possible and naively hadn’t thought about the Para sport world before or certainly not in terms of myself.
After seeking advice from Great British rowing, I was given some information of the type of prosthetic required in order for me to have as natural rowing stroke across all phases as possible.
I took this information to my nearest prosthetic centre, and I was told this wasn’t viable and I would have to go private. Dorset Orthopedic come to my aid and sat with me to discuss the options and together we produced my first rowing prosthetic December 2017.
So, what makes it suitable for rowing?
Ankle flexion and extension, Foot plantar and Dorsi flexion both allow for the 90 degrees angle at the catch position and full extension during the drive.
Pin lock system for quick release oh and waterproof!
The ability to handle volume change also socket comfort all whilst keeping everything as aligned as possible.
I am lucky enough to have the use of a rowing machine at my centre and get to try out the leg at each production phase to ensure its capable of doing what I’m asking of it. I have also attended capsize training and put the leg under immense stress under water to allow for my leg to free should the foot straps fail.
I’ve been lucky enough to have experience the elite level of Para rowing within the two disciplines of sweep and sculling and the sense of pride I felt when I competed my first competition winning bronze was epic, I entered British offshore champs as me not my para class and this was great feeling and I felt not different to anyone else especially in a coastal double.
I dread to think the number of meters I’ve achieved over the six years that I have been rowing along rivers lakes and oh oceans well that I know has reached a thousand miles.
So, your wondering can you row as an amputee yes you can!
Help and guidance is a must, trusting and knowing your body and ultimately enjoy it.
If you are a double amputee with different limb lengths, then you would be able to row arms and bodies if your able to do so using a specific seat and leg straps. The same as I have mentioned above with regards to higher level amputations depending on socket comfort when seated, so you may opt for the leg straps to row arms and bodies.
“I Can, You Can, We can”