Blisters are a normal part of the rowing and cannot be avoided. It’s the natural process of rowing for sweaty hands to rub on the oar handle creating friction and thus blisters. We do our best to teach everyone to hold the handle correctly so that blisters occur in the “correct” places on the hands (pads where the fingers meet the palm). The friction and blisters eventually develop calluses as the skin of the hands toughens, which is what you want. You’ll always know a rower when you shake their hand!
The important thing is to let the process happen and monitor your hands as it happens. Hot redness, swelling, deeper tenderness, pus, or the like are signs of infection that should be dealt with immediately. Tell a coach, and see your doctor without delay. We clean the oar handles regularly to help prevent transmission of infections between athletes, but cases of MRSA and other infections have been known to happen in the rowing community. Knowledge and monitoring are your best defenses.
There is a great article on blister care that you can read from the best rowing site on the web, Row2k.com. Here are handful of tips to keep in mind.
- Keep your hands clean! Use soap and water and hand sanitizer regularly.
- Use hand lotion minimally, to allow the hands to toughen. Hand lotion is best used to keep calluses from cracking or skin from splitting. Both are bad.
- Unless required because of medical reasons, you may not wear gloves. They interfere with the callusing process and lessen your feel and control of the oar.
- Don’t pop a blister unless you have too! It creates an open wound for bacteria and infection.
- Keep your calluses trimmed. Use a nail file or nail clippers to remove over thick areas of skin that can be an extra friction point, which can then pull and tear a callus creating a much more serious issue.