Rowing sisters (and brothers) with blisters

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As you slowly watch your child’s hands degrade from soft and supple to something out of Freddy Kreuger, you will doubt the wisdom of this sport.

Get used to it.

Cheese grater hands are par for the course.

Don’t indulge any wallowing, it’s just attention seeking martyrdom.  

You will cringe.

There will be ooze.

There will be blood.

There will be raw flesh.

There will be callouses.

They will be worn with pride and displayed with glee.

Yes, there are rowing gloves, but only the wussies wear them, and rowers aren’t wussies. Also, they don’t provide enough grip on the blade and the friction inside the glove can lead to even worse blisters.

Blisters aren’t all they’re cracked up to be

A lot of the time, blisters can be avoided by simply paying attention to gripping the blade correctly. It’s supposed to be a loose, relaxed grip, but most novice rowers confuse this with the Darth Vader death grip. I don’t really suggest telling your rower this. They tend to get quite aggressive about the fact that their parent is not their coach. Sometimes, we just have to bite our tongues.

Hygiene is the most important factor to avoiding infection. Washing hands before and after rowing. Carefully washing down the blades and handles after every session. If the rower before has ripped open their skin on the handles, do you really think it’s hygienic to put yours on top of it? Again, we may want to drum this into our children, but like the application of sunscreen, sometimes we fail.

The Blister Kit

The blister kit is something every rower should have in the bag along with their spanners. Contrary to popular belief, the coach and the cox do not offer an endless supply of plasters.

  • Needle/ pin/ safety pin to drain the blister.
  • Antiseptic spray like Elastoplast Antiseptic Wound Spray.  
  • Antiseptic cream like Betadine or Colloidal Silver gel, cream or liquid.
  • Fabric plaster.
  • Zinc oxide, micropore surgical or sports tape. If you’re going to tape it up, make sure to tape around the fingers so that it doesn’t get all mushed up around the palm during rowing. It’s worthwhile keeping this in the boat. Change it after the session, otherwise it’s just gross.
  • Small pair of scissor or nail clippers to cut off the flappy bits. EEW. You’ll also need to do this once the blister dries. It’s horrible and cringe-worthy, but the dry bits can catch and rip away even ore skin.

Treating the blister

  • If the skin is torn or rubbed away, wash it with good old soap and water. It hurts, but it works.
  • If the blister is raised and filled with fluid, sterilize a needle and pierce the blister from the side to drain it. Leave the skin on top as far as you can. It forms a natural plaster and a barrier against infection.
  • Apply your antiseptic treatment.
  • If training, cover it up with a fabric plaster or tape.
  • At home, let it breathe! (You can sing this to the song from Frozen if you like).
  • You want the blister to dry out.

Home remedies

There are a few old-timey home remedies that can also help.

A soak in Epsom Salts will help dry it out. It’s also great for sore and aching muscles.

Apparently, wrapping a slice of raw tomato around the palm and leaving it for the night also helps. I haven’t tried this, because my rower regarded me with horror and revulsion upon its very suggestion.

There are a lot of online resources to help you out here

You can Google ‘rowing blisters’ and some excellent sources come up. At the end of the day a rowing blister isn’t that different from any other kind of blister, so use your parental common sense. If it looks dicey go the doctor.

Suck it up, buttercup

As a rowing parent, I have to admit that I have to bite back a smile when my child screams over disinfectant, but can row 2km with raw, bleeding hands. Or in one case, a dislocated ankle!

PS: Avoid surgical spirits and peroxide. They do more harm than good.

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I write because I have to. It is a compulsion. I do it to vent, to laugh and to remember. I blog because it has been so long since I had to write with a pen that my hand would go into cramp if I tried to write a journal.

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