Here Comes the Sun: Take the Time to Prepare Your Skin

Summer and the longest days of the year are upon us, and athletes are constantly being exposed to the sun during training. Rowing without proper protection is risky. Just ask Olympic gold medal coxswain and Row to Rio legend Peter Cipollone.

Cipollone was diagnosed with Stage One melanoma on his forearm six weeks prior to the start of the 2004 Olympic Games. Before departing for Athens, he had two surgeries, the second one leaving him with more than 60 stitches.

Cipollone is now a spokesperson for the National Center for Skin Cancer Prevention.

“Rowers spend hours each day in the sun, often without shirts or hats,” he said. “I want all athletes to understand that skin cancer can hit you even when you are young and in great shape.”

Skin cancer is a major killer in the U.S., and the number of skin cancer related deaths is growing at an alarming rate. Typical rowing hours are not during the time of day when the sun is doing its most damage, but have you ever gotten sunburned on a long weekend row or at a regatta?

Glare from the water magnifies the intensity of the sun and protection is needed not only for skin, but also for eyes. Wearing sunglasses, like Rudy Project, that block 99 percent of UVA and UVB rays on even overcast days will help protect an athlete’s eyes from sun damage.

Like Cipollone, Meghan O’Leary, who will represent the U.S. in the women’s double sculls in Rio this August, is fully aware of the damage sun exposure can do.

“As rowers, we spend several hours every day outside in sun,” she said. “Add to that the fact that we are basically on a huge mirror that reflects the sun up into our faces, and it’s extremely important to protect ourselves not only from the dangers of UV rays, but the lingering effects of a sunburn.

“Applying full coverage sunscreen, wearing a hat and sunglasses and oftentimes, lightweight long-sleeves and pants, are all ways I try to protect myself from the sun when I’m out on the water.”

Go here to see the UV Index for your zip code and learn more about the risk of outdoor activities and skin cancer. Read more about sun safety and skin cancer avoidance at the Environmental Protection Agency’s SunWise.

USRowing Safety Committee:
Casey Baker
Jim Cooper
Catharine Labine
Rachel Lemieux
John White
Margot Zalkind, Chair
Willie Black, USRowing Safety Liaison

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