As most rowers quickly realize, the sport of rowing is highly demanding and places an even bigger strain on the upper body, especially the back, shoulders, and elbows. However, what many rowers overlook is wrist and hand health. This usually isn’t crucial to maintaining a personal best time, but rather, simply becomes an annoyance along the lines of a nagging injury. Therefore, we would like to briefly discuss a couple different ways that rowers can look after their wrists and hands so they can focus on the task at hand.
Preventing wrist injuries is extremely difficult, as this will often require the use of some sort of brace or padding. Furthermore, overuse injuries, which would be far more likely in rowing, wouldn’t benefit from this at all. However, there are a couple things you can try. Compression sleeves are great to wear during repetitive tasks, anything from typing on a keyboard to operating a jackhammer, as they help provide support through compression, pain reduction, and promotion of circulation, thus speeding up healing times. Given these are thin elastic sleeves, many rowers find them to be quite comfortable while on the water.
During training, some rowers also like to wear a watch. This can be tricky, as the watch can irritate the skin, especially if your wrist or forearm becomes wet. It’s hard to tell what watches will do this and which ones won’t until they get wet. This doesn’t necessarily lead to injury, but if you have the watch on directly over your skin, it could potentially lead to chaffing or blistering, which is still a little painful, but more so highly annoying. If you can, try using a non-irritating watch for training, as it will save you some time and money down the road.
Most rowers are quite familiar with the struggle of trying to treat blisters, keeping them from re-opening, preventing them from happening, whatever can make your hands look less like Swiss cheese! There isn’t anything overly groundbreaking to describe here, except for a few suggestions that we found to be a little more helpful. First, for treating gnarly blisters and cuts, we really like the O’Keefe’s Working Hands Cream. It’s really cheap, unscented, and you can tell it’s heavy duty because it’s basically a tin with an almost-solid paste. I use it overnight and it’s amazing. Throughout the day, I usually find some sort of lighter, but non-greasy, hand cream is fine, whatever you can find for cheap. This will help supplement the overnight treatment and will stretch your supply a little longer as well. Check out this list of good hand lotions for some cheap and effective solutions.
Taking care of your hands and wrists can make a huge difference in comfort on the water, especially if you are able to avoid blisters and the taping and bandaging that comes along with that. We wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s crucial in order to perform well, but maintaining good hand and wrist health will take a couple things off the list that you need to address after training!