Sally Brown |

Skin to win: Looking after your hands and buttocks

Physiotherapist Sally Brown explains why rowers get blisters and what we can do to avoid them

The main causes for skin breakdown in any sport are due to three consistent factors.

  • The microclimate of the skin i.e. sweat, wetness and hygiene of the skin
  • Friction and shear
  • The deformation of tissue under pressure or load.

All these are influenced by the amount of movement at the interface and the duration of exposure.

Why do rowers get blisters?

Many rowers will have experienced skin breakdown at some point, with the most common sites presenting on the hands and buttocks.

In rowing there is almost the perfect storm; the rowing environment is often wet and an average outing totals over 1,500 movement cycles. At the hand, the grip on the oar creates pressure through the skin and during the stroke the hand translates over the handle to create a dynamic friction grip. At the buttocks, body weight pushes into the seat causing pressure over bony prominences, the rockover then creates shear at this interface.

How to avoid and reduce rowing blisters

Optimising skin health can allow athletes to train and compete to the best of their ability without interruptions. Poor skin management can lead to absence due to infection and pain or due to the knock-on effect of compensation movements that lead to a new sudden loading of the musculoskeletal system, increasing the threat of injury.

This article focuses on six things rowers can do to help prevent skin break down by increasing the tolerance of the skin.

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