Rowing Blisters: Part 1
The news that Olympian rower Andy Holmes contracted the Weils disease that killed him through the blisters on his hands should concern all rowers and not just those of us rowing on dirty waterways. Look at the factors involved: Andy had exhausted himself and he had open wounds – sound like any rowers you know?
And while dying from Weils disease is a very rare complication of blisters there are other nasties out there and not all of them come from the water. Some like MRSA we carry around with us; others ranging from hepatitis A through to the common cold can be transmitted by skin contact making us all vulnerable.
Christchurch Girls High School rowers were unlucky enough to be stricken by MRSA. One of the girls’ had infected blisters on her hands that didn’t respond to a course of antibiotics; she ended up in hospital and undergoing surgery for cellulitis – as did another of her crewmates . . . and another . . .. One of them had nearly a year of physiotherapy treatment correcting the damage done to the tendons in her hands.
Am I scaring you?
As dire as the consequences of infection are, the prevention measures are simple.
Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands and then just to make sure, WASH YOUR HANDS.
Can it be that simple?
Well, a teacher of a Girls High rival school told me about the hand-washing campaign they ran during the Swine Flu scare; the result was a 30% reduction in the number of absentees from normal. Think what having more of your rowers for more of the time could do for your training programme. But you know this isn’t just a casual flick under water – you need soap, friction and warm water and you should take 30s to do it. Try it! 30 seconds is a long time – that’s ‘Happy Birthday’ sung twice (Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday dear meeeee, Happy Birthday to me . . .and again . . .).
It’s not that easy getting people washing hands for this long so Virginia Spoors who headed the rowing programme at Girls High recommends these other actions:
- Use a pea-sized amount of alcohol gel to clean your hands before and after rowing (this may sting a little !)
- Wash scull and oar handles in a weak bleach solution once a week
- Reduce open wound contact by taping blisters and other sores
Do all this and remember that getting enough sleep or rest and having good nutrition are just as important as practising good hygiene.
And then of course, we could always work on not getting blisters . . . stay tuned!