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Protect Your Playing Hand

Hand Protection

Rafael Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal always takes precautionary measures to protect his playing hand before matches.

If you’ve ever had a serious blister on your playing hand, you’ll know that it’s one of the most painful and frustrating ailments that can plague a tennis player. Blisters on fingers can be difficult to tape when knuckles come into play, and blisters in the palm or bottom of the hand can be close to impossible to effectively cover. But soldier on without protection and you risk the blister evolving into an open wound that only time will heal. At that point you’re only option is to hang up the racquets for a couple of weeks.

So if you’d prefer to spend your weekends on the courts rather than decluttering your garage, you’ve got to take time to manage calluses to avoid more serious problems down the road.  “With blisters, prevention is definitely the best course,” says ATP physio Paul Ness.

Anyone who plays regularly will get calluses on their hands. It’s how you manage those calluses that counts. If it develops an edge, a callus can easily become mobile on top of the underlying skin, and that’s when a blister develops underneath. Or, in an even worse situation, the movement of the racquet tears the callus off the skin. “Then you’ve got a wound as opposed to a blister,” Ness says. “Any time you end up with an open wound it’s going to be painful - and really difficult to pad and have the dressing stay in place.” Wounds are more likely to occur on fingers, which crack more easily than the hand.


Managing Calluses
Many ATP World Tour players carry a callus shaver, similar to a razor blade, which allows them to safely shave down the edge of the callus. ATP physios will sometimes use a scalpel to trim a callus. “Callus shavers are widely available and pretty easy to use with some basic instruction to know what you’re doing and how much to take off,” Ness says. “The absolute safest thing is to file down a callus. That way you can make the surface of the skin smooth as well.” And keep your hands moisturised. ATP physios have found that players are at greater risk of cracked skin, which leads to blisters, in very dry climates like Indian Wells.

Club players returning to the courts after an extended break run the risk of developing blisters because skin on their hands has softened. In this instance there’s not a lot of preventative work that can be done to reduce the risk of blisters, other than precautionary taping of areas where blisters have developed in the past.
Blister Treatment
If your preventative maintenance isn’t all that it should be and you do find yourself with a blister in an awkward position on the hand, all is not lost. Although regular plasters won’t get the job done because they won’t stay in place, The COMPEED® X-treme Flex Hand Blister strip has a thin, oval-shaped plaster that sticks well to difficult-to-dress areas of the hand, and which allows the underlying blister to heal. “It provides a nice barrier between the racquet and the skin and it helps to reduce the pain,” Ness says.


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