Rips of the skin and calluses on the hands are an annoying and painful part of any physical exercise that uses the hands intensively. Anyone can get them, and there’s no getting around that fact. You can get them from shoveling snow, playing baseball, throwing the javelin, climbing ropes, or swinging on bars. You can get them from doing just about anything involving the hands. Gymnasts have to deal with them all the time, as do weightlifters and, of course, people who do a high volume of kipping pull- ups.
There are basically two qualities that make your hands susceptible to ripping. Your chances increase a lot if you’ve got either a) soft hands with little or no callus build-up or b) too much callus buildup that makes bumps or ridges on the surface of your hands. You need the happy medium—deep but smooth and supple calluses that protect the hands
but remain intact when working.
So what should you do when a rip (ouch!!!) does happen? Many methods are used, here is one utilized by many gymnasts:
- Go to the bathroom and wash your hands to remove any chalk and surface germs. Yes,it stings, but it still has to be done. Pat the rip dry with a paper towel.
- Carefully trim any excess skin using sterilized scissors and apply Neosporin or similar antibiotic ointment. Cover with a bandage and then wrap the bandage with athletic tape to keep the bandage in place. This should get you through the remainder of practice.
- Once at home, use tea bags to reduce the pain and speed the healing of the rip. Prepare a cup of black tea using a tea bag according to the package directions. Remove the tea bag and place it in the freezer for a few minutes to cool. Apply the tea bag directly to the rip and leave it on overnight, covering with a glove or something similar. The tannic acid that occurs naturally in the tea is an amazing pain reliever! The tea bag will discolor the rip area, but only for a few days. It also helps speed the development of the new layer of skin.
- Over the next few days be sure to keep the rip area moisturized to prevent cracking and reopening of the wound. Use vaseline or your favorite lip balm – like Carmex or Blistex Daily Conditioning Treatment.
- During practice, cover the rip with a bandage and athletic tape or make a tape grip so you can continue training.
The tea bag method is not the only way to treat rips, however, it is the one that many gymnasts use. You can also treat rips with Vitamin E applied directly to the rip, Neosporin + Pain ointment, and some gymnasts will tell you that Preparation H works well (since it contains medication for pain and to reduce swelling).
There are several ways to keep the hands from developing blisters and tears. First, if your hands are soft, thin-skinned, or generally unconditioned, you must slowly and gradually build up your calluses to meet the demands of your exercise. Don’t overdo your hand intensive exercise while you’re building up the thickness and toughness of the skin, or you’ll just keep ripping your hands and not have a chance to develop good healthy protective calluses. Once you’ve developed a tough and thick skin on your hands, it’s important to maintain the quality of the skin by keeping the surface well groomed. This means simply that the overall thickness of the skin on the hand surface is consistent throughout and the surface is smooth. Otherwise, over time, the calluses will have a tendency to get thicker in certain areas of the hand and not in others. You will develop “ridges” of thick skin that will eventually lead to a tearing of the skin. The best way to prevent the hands from ripping in the future is to actually shave the calluses down to a level that maintains a relatively thick yet consistent depth of skin throughout the hand. Ideally, your entire palm surface should be one thick callus with no bumps or ridges in any one particular area. In order to do this, groom your hands always after a hot shower or bath (this allows the calluses to swell up). While the calluses are still “swollen,” take a double-edged razor and very carefully shave the dead callus bumps down a little at a time until the bumps are about even with the thickness of the rest of the hand. You may also want to get a callus stone (you can buy one at any drug store), and gently sand the callus down even with the rest of the skin. Remember, whenever you groom or shave your calluses, don’t overdo it, since you don’t want to go too deep into your skin. Always leave enough thick skin so to facilitate your workout the following day. The goal is to maintain an even and consistent thickness of hard skin throughout the entire palm.
Here’s how to tape your hands the day after a rip so you can keep training.
1. Tear off a 14-inch length of 1½-inch athletic tape.
2. Split the strip of tape lengthwise from one end to about the midpoint.
3. Place the tape on the hand with the solid half directly over the rip on the palm and with the start of the split right at the base of the finger. Press the tape down against the skin, starting from the inside of the wrist all the way to the split tape on the back of the hand and the top of the wrist. You can add a second layer of this tape grip on top of the first one for additional protection.
4. Use some more tape around the wrist to wrap the loose ends of the tape grip. This will “lock in” the tape grip covering the rip, and keep it from moving and coming off the hand. You only need to wrap around the wrist twice. The first time around is to hold the tape grip down, and the second time around, you can tuck in the loose extra ends of the tape grip back over the taped wrist and then tape over those extra ends. When the grip is complete, the hand should be able to open completely.
Information courtesy of-
The CrossFit Journal: CrossFit Journal Article Reprint. First Published in CrossFit Journal Issue 68 – April 2008
Sports Girls Play (http://sportsgirlsplay.com/tips-for-dealing-with-gymnasts-hand-rips/)