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Rower who suffered rib fractures creates gym equipment to support others

A British rower who has hopes of becoming an Olympian has designed new gym equipment to support other athletes who may be prone to rib stress fractures.

Max Parker training

Rower who suffered rib fractures creates gym equipment to support others

A British rower who has hopes of becoming an Olympian has designed new gym equipment to support other athletes who may be prone to rib stress fractures.

Max Parker, 23, created the GymMax to support other sportspeople, like him, who endure such high training loads that they can fracture their own ribs.

The Nottingham Trent University (NTU) student is a competitive rower with ambitions to represent Great Britain in the Olympics, and is currently training for the World University Games.

Max, who is studying BA Product Design, has fractured his own ribs twice, but says there’s no specific equipment available which focusses on strengthening the serratus anterior muscles which support the rib cage.

His design went on public exhibition for the 2023 art and design Student Showcase at NTU, which is one of the UK’s largest displays of graduating art and design talent.

Max, from Hickling, near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, said: “I’ve been rowing at a high level for six years and I’ve had rib stress fractures twice now.

Max Parker

“It’s not an uncommon injury in competitive rowing, but from my perspective there’s not a lot of work that’s been done on how to prevent it occurring.

“The injury comes from the repetitive motion that puts a strain on the ribs. It normally affects the third or fourth rib down from the collar bone, usually on the front of the rib cage. It’s usually a very small fracture, often only a hairline crack, but is quite painful.

“During racing season, many people train through it and push through the pain, but a physio would probably recommend a couple of months out.

“The first time I had it was during racing season and I just pushed through the pain. Luckily it did gradually heal. The second time wasn’t as bad as I was able to have break.”

Made from a plywood base with two layers of sustainable natural rubber for grip, GymMax allows athletes to easily train with resistance bands by hooking them onto the stainless steel bars, while short yellow ropes limit the load.

It allows people to easily practice a range of exercises against resistance including side planks, planks, press ups, scapula press ups and more.

“I would be keen to take it to market, as I think there’s definitely potential in it,” says Max, who aims to train full-time after finishing his degree. “I’ve had lots of people try it and have received great feedback from them all.”

Paul Kennea, senior lecturer in Product Design at Nottingham Trent University, said: “Max has taken his own personal experience of a competitive sports injury and used it to design something which will help other athletes, like him, to cope with the amount of training which is required to compete at the top level.

“His product is a sustainable and affordable way to improve the training experience for athletes who need to strengthen themselves in specific muscle areas to prevent season-ending injuries.”

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    About Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) received the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2021 for cultural heritage science research. It is the second time that NTU has been bestowed the honour of receiving a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its research, the first being in 2015 for leading-edge research on the safety and security of global citizens.

    The Research Excellence Framework (2021) classed 83% of NTU’s research activity as either world-leading or internationally excellent. 86% of NTU’s research impact was assessed to be either world-leading or internationally excellent.

    NTU was awarded The Times and The Sunday Times Modern University of the Year 2023 and ranked University of the Year in the Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2023. It was awarded Outstanding Support for Students 2020 (Times Higher Education Awards), University of the Year 2019 (Guardian University Awards, UK Social Mobility Awards), Modern University of the Year 2018 (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide) and University of the Year 2017 (Times Higher Education Awards).

    NTU is the 5th largest UK institution by student numbers, with approximately 40,000 students and more than 4,400 staff located across five campuses. It has an international student population of 7,000 and an NTU community representing over 160 countries.

    Since 2000, NTU has invested £570 million in tools, technology, buildings and facilities.

    NTU is in the UK’s top 10 for number of applications and ranked first for accepted offers (2021 UCAS UG acceptance data). It is also among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and was the first UK university to sign the Social Mobility Pledge.

    NTU is ranked 2nd most sustainable university in the world in the 2022 UI Green Metric University World Rankings (out of more than 900 participating universities).

Published on 5 June 2023
  • Category: Press office; School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment