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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Physiology Of Chafing In Salt And Fresh Water

HUNTINGTON BEACH. There are three types of chafing: skin-on-skin, fabric-on-skin and hair-on-skin.

chafing can be caused by stroke technique, sighting, swimsuit types, salt concentration in the water, water temperature, facial hair, duration in the water, and body type.

Most people use lubricants (Vaseline or other types of petroleum jelly, lanolin, TriSlide, Body Glide, Aquaphor) to prevent chafing in salt water.

But many people use lubricants to prevent chafing in freshwater swims and in some long pool training sessions. Open Water Source looked closer at the subject by talking with several physicians who are experienced open water swimming physicians.

Dr. Nick Olmos-Lau gives a brief overview of sea water chemistry. "Seawater is a solution primarily composed of salt ions:

Listed in order of descending abundance by weight are: chloride, sodium, sulfate, magnesium, calcium, potassium, bicarbonate, bromide, borat, strontium and others (listed in order of descending abundance by weight). As water evaporates, sea salt is deposited on the skin as crystals. Variations in the composition of waters from different seas are thought to be mainly due only to the changes in the amount of water present. The first salts that precipitate are calcium carbonate and some amount of magnesium carbonates. This is determined by water density. Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) is limestone, a very gritty, rough and irritating substance

Dr. Olmos-Lau continues on why chafing occurs so often in the seas and oceans. "The effect of sea salt on the skin is either a micro or macro-abrasive. Ocean salt is often used for skin cleansing or therapeutic baths. However, prolonged skin immersion (>72 hours) may result in dermatitis, hydration (hypo or hyper) and or maceration.

Continuous skin friction can produce skin damage or abrasions of variable severity. This starts at the surface involving the epidermis first. If it goes deeper into the dermis, it can produce severe pain – similar to a burn – and/or bleeding. Below the dermis sits a layer of fat. If the skin is well-padded or the fat layer is thick, the skin protrudes. This exposes more skin to friction and produces more severe “burns”. In other words, more slender people report that they are less likely to abrade."

Dr. Olmos-Lau also explains the hair-to-skin chafing, "I have had severe burns with bleeding related to beard friction on my shoulder in the ocean. These were very painful.” He gives advice known by many. Petroleum jelly doesn't last, but is useful in long pool swims. Lanolin adheres to the skin more, but the smell of natural lanolin is repellent. However, there are diluted compounds that are useful."

Dr. Peter Attia adds, "I chafe within 1-2 hours without any barrier. The best barrier for me is A&D ointment, but for short swims, petroleum jelly is good enough. In the pool, I chafe with swims over 3 or 4 hours." He brings up a point of discussion for future research. "I've never paid attention to the difference in water temperature, ceteris paribus, for a given salt concentration."

Dr. Heather Hopkins who practices on Kauai, Hawaii and is a FINA Medical Delegate, describes the ocean environment, "Ocean water has a host of other chemical and organic ingredients, critters, and possible pollutants which I can imagine bind to or injure the lipid bi-layers of cells, alter the normal waterproof nature of skin. At normal sea concentrations, I would assume all salt crystals are dissolved, but other friction producers and skin irritants could be present and unaccounted for."

She speaks for some portion of the open water swimming community. "I never chafe in a lake or pool, but begin chaffing almost immediately in the ocean despite trials of various balms and ointments."

Karah Nazor, Ph.D. on the other hand, chafes in both the pool and in salt water with the damage obviously gets worse with prolonged and repetitive movements. "I've chafed my whole life. In high school, we used to call the chafing spots "swickies" for swim + hicky." She speaks for many in the open water swimming community. "I chafe in salt water more quickly and a whole lot worse. In salt water, swickies form in more places and the sores are a lot bigger and therefore more prone to infection. They can become painful and the burning sensation become intolerable."

Karah, who uses Bag Balm which has lanolin and petroleum jelly, expands on Dr. Olmos-Lau’s chemistry lesson. "The ocean salts dissociate in water into the component ions. The ions in ocean salts include sodium, (Na+), chloride (Cl-), sulfate (SO42-), magnesium ion (Mg2+), calcium ion (Ca2+), and potassium ion (K+). Pool water doesn't have all of these salts. Once the skin is broken, the salts and ions in the sea water cause our cells to lyse or break open which exposes more cells underneath. This is due to the lower salinity of the cells in our body than the salinity of sea water."

Dr. Jim Miller of the FINA Sports Medicine Committee offers additional practical advice:

Look at the suit and at any seam, a lubricant needs to be applied. Some athletes apply it inside their suit where a seam runs.
• Watch the athlete's stroke mechanics. Someone who breaths even slightly late will catch their chin on their shoulder producing a rub. Remember to look at the dynamics that they use for sighting in which case the rubbing site may be at the back of their neck.
• With a pool swimmer, lubricate them anywhere you can imagine. They do not have enough experience to know where they will get into trouble. You can evaluate them after a long practice swim to see where they are rubbing and then adjust accordingly. Even if they are doing pool swims of many hours they do not have sighting or stroke adjustments for waves and currents. They never have to change directions or maneuver. All this matters.
• The choice of lubricant is individual, but I have never found anything better then anhydrous lanolin. It is messy, but it says in place and makes for completely disgusting finishing pictures. It also does not affect the stitches or integrity of wet suits or long suits. Vaseline affects stitching as do some other petroleum-based products.
• Salt water is much more irritating and as the athlete begins to chafe it burns and results in them changing their stroke mechanics.
• Another affect of salt water is that the athlete will be riding differently in the water with a resultant change in stroke mechanics and new rubbing sites.
• None of the lubricant products have any thermal benefit, but they may change the athlete's sensation of cold.
• Chafing is important due to the potential for cellulitis which can set up at the site of the skin breakdown. Pain then affects performance and, if enough area is involved, may have thermal affects

Podiatrist Dr. Lyle Nalli also adds to what Dr. Hopkins mentions. "The salt water is a living estuary of bacteria. I tell my patients NOT to get in the water after surgery. And ocean water is the last resort. A typical pool has chlorine and other elements that make the environment for bacteria difficult."

First photo above shows Alex Kostich after the Distance Swim Challenge. Second photo above shows professional marathon swimmer Alejandra Gonzales of Mexico having skin lubricants applied uses rubber gloves.

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source

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The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

Learn more...
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Agenda

Friday, 19 September



Welcome Reception at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland

Documentary films shown throughout the reception:

Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa – Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way
(film by Bruckner Chase)

Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain
(film by Wayne Ewing about Matthew Moseley's Lake Pontchartrain crossing)

Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska
(film by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko about the relay between Russia and Alaska)

The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau
(film about Simon Holiday's Pearl River Delta crossing)

Saturday, 20 September



Registration and Coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland



Keynote Speech:
Colleen Blair (Scotland) on The History of Scottish Swimming



Christopher Guesdon (Australia) on Multidimensional Roles In The Sport



Colin Hill (England) on Recent Explosion in UK Open Water



Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) on The Feminine Code of Achievement - How a Lady from Down Under Revolutionized Professional Marathon Swimming



Simon Murie (England) on Open Water Swimming Holidays: How A New Sector Was Created Within The Travel Industry



Swimming The Oceans Seven
A round table discussion moderated by:
Kevin Murphy (England), with Stephen Redmond (Ireland), Anna-Carin Nordin (Sweden),
Darren Miller (USA), Adam Walker (England), Kimberley Chambers (New Zealand)



Coffee and Break



World Open Water Swimming Awards Luncheon:
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA)

Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year

Olga Kozydub (Russia), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year

Bering Strait Swim, 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year

Honoring: Vladimir Chegorin, Maria Chizhova, Elena Guseva, Ram Barkai, Jack Bright, Oksana Veklich, Aleksandr Jakovlevs, Matías Ola, Henri Kaarma, Toomas Haggi, Nuala Moore, Anne Marie Ward, Toks Viviers, Melissa O’Reilly, Ryan Stramrood, Cristian Vergara, Craig Lenning, Rafal Ziobro, Andrew Chin, Jackie Cobell, James Pittar, Paolo Chiarino, Mariia Yrjö-Koskinen, Ivan Papulshenko, Zdenek Tlamicha, Zhou Hanming, Oleg Adamov, Andrei Agarkov, Alekseev Semen, Tatiana Alexandrova, Roman Belan, Elena Semenova, Alexander Brylin, Afanasii Diackovskii, Vladimir Nefatov, Evgenii Dokuchaev, Oleg Docuckaev, Roman Efimov, Dmitrii Filitovich, Olga Filitovich, Victor Godlevskiy, Olga Golubeva, Alexei Golubkin, Alexander Golubkin, Alexandr Iurkov, Oleg Ivanov, Pavel Kabakov, Eduard Khodakovskiy, Aleksandr Komarov, Aleksandr Kuliapin, Andrey Kuzmin, Irina Lamkina, Vladimir Litvinov, Andrey Mikhalev, Victor Moskvin, Nikolay Petshak, Sergey Popov, Vladimir Poshivailov, Grigorii Prokopchuk, Dmitrii Zalka, Natalia Seraya, Viacheslav Shaposhnikov, Olga Sokolova, Andrei Sychev, Alexei Tabakov, and Nataliia Usachaeva [represented by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko and Nuala Moore]



Alexey Salmin Pavlovich (Russia) and Dmitry Dragozhilov (Russia)
on the 2016 Winter Swimming World Championships [film]



Sally Minty-Gravett (Jersey) on Motivating Swimmers



Dmitry Blokhin (Russia) and Aleksei Veller (Russia)
on the First World Ice Swimming Championships [film]



Matthew Moseley (USA)’s Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain [film]



Simon Holliday (England) and Doug Woodring (Hong Kong)’s The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau 2014 [film]



International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF)

IMSHOF Induction Ceremonies and Dinner
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA).

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Elizabeth Fry (USA), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • James Anderson (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Dr. Jane Katz (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Indonesian Swimming Federation Open Water Committee (Indonesia), IMSHOF Honour Organisation

  • Melissa Cunningham (Australia), Irving Davids – Captain Roger Wheeler Award by the International Swimming Hall of Fame and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Sandra Bucha (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Jon Erikson (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer [represented by Sandra Bucha]



International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) Introduction Video.
Welcome speech by host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)






International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
Induction Ceremonies and Dinner with host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Mercedes Gleitze (England)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by daughter Doloranda Pember]

  • Dale Petranech (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Contributer and IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Claudio Plit (Argentina)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Shelley Taylor-Smith]

  • Judith van Berkel-de Nijs (Netherlands)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Niek Kloots]

  • George Young (Canada)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation]

  • David Yudovin (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

Sunday, 21 September



Registration and coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland



Nuala Moore (Ireland) on The Mindset of 1000m at 0ºC



Admiral Konstantin Sidenko (Russia)’s Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska in 2013 [film]



Ned Denison (Ireland) on Swimming The World



Bruckner Chase (USA)’s Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa
Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way



Rok Kerin (Slovenia) on Lifestyle Benefits From Open Water Swimming



Survey distribution and group photo-taking



Swim at Stravvana Bay, Isle of Bute


The Global Open Water Swimming Conference is a conference on the sport of open water swimming, marathon swimming and swimming during triathlons and multi-sport endurance events.

The conference which has been attended by enthusiasts and luminaries from 6 continents, is devoted to providing information about the latest trends, race tactics, training techniques, equipment, psychological preparation, race organization and safety practices used in the sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons.

The conference's mission is to provide opportunities to listen and meet many of the world's most foremost experts in open water swimming, and to meet and discuss the sport among swimmers, coaches, administrators, event organizers, sponsors, vendors, officials, escort pilots, and volunteers from kayakers to safety personnel.

Dozens of presentations at the 2014 Conference at the Mount Stuart House cover numerous aspects of the vast and growing world of open water swimming where attendees can learn and share the latest trends, race tactics, training modalities, swimming techniques, equipment, race organization, logistics, operations, and safety practices for open water swimming as a solo swimmer, competitive athlete, fitness swimmer, masters swimmer, triathlete, multi-sport athlete, administrator, race promoter, sponsor or referee.

The conference was first held in Long Beach, California as part of the 2010 USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships. It has since been held on the Queen Mary in California, at Columbia University and the United Nations in New York City, and in Cork, Ireland. This year in September, it comes to another iconic location, the Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland.

"The Global Open Water Swimming Conference was started due to the desire and need for athletes, coaches, referees, administrators, race directors, promoters and sponsors from around the world to share, collect and learn information about the growing sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons," said founder Steven Munatones. "Other swimming conferences usually offering nothing on open water swimming or perhaps a speech or two, but we thought open water swimming deserves its own global conference. It is great that the community shares its information via the online social network, but there is nothing like meeting other open water swimming enthusiasts face-to-face and talking about the sport from morning to night."

Speakers at the conference include English Channel swimmers, ice swimmers, record holders, renowned coaches, world champions, professional marathon swimmers, renowned race directors, officials and administrators from the Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

"Because the audience is passionate and educated about the sport and its finest practitioners, the Global Open Water Swimming Conference is also the location of the induction ceremonies for the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and the annual WOWSA Awards that recognize the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year, and the World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year. Special Lifetime Achievement Awards are also occasionally presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the sport over their career."

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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