Grip It, Don’t Rip It: Tips for Treating and Preventing Hand Rips
By: Allyson Priano
It’s the middle of a long work week, and you’re ready to hit the gym for some much-needed sweat equity. You check the whiteboard as you head to the gym and you see the WOD: 15-minute AMRAP of high volume deadlifts and toes-to-bars. You think to yourself, “YES! All that gymnastics and core work I’ve been doing is going to pay off today. Let’s do this!”
You’re about halfway through the workout, and your hands are starting to ache from the grip intensive movements. As you make your way past what seems like the 100th round of deadlifts, you jump up to the bar and start to rep out your set of toes-to-bar (or knees-to-elbow), and then, it happens – the skin on your hands start to tear and rip.
Suddenly, the tough calluses you’ve worked so hard to build up are no longer worth bragging about to your friends (lame story, bro). No amount of chalk can save you now. So, to save face, you cringe and grind your way (and your skin) through the rest of the workout and pray that the damages aren’t as bad as they’re starting to feel.
After the clock winds down and Coach says, “Time!” you look down at your barbell—chalked and bloody—then at your hands, both palms are ripped, raw and sore. And all you can think to yourself is “There’s blood everywhere! This was a terrible idea!”
But, before you get too dramatic, you remember that you read this blog post and immediately know how to fix your newly ripped situation thanks to these treatment tips:
- First, don’t over-react, rips happen, they’re annoying, but they need to be treated. If this is your first rip, congrats, you’ve just achieved a CrossFit rite of passage. Now, immediately go to the bathroom and wash your hands (with soap…) to remove any chalk and dirt from the ripped area. WARNING: IT’S GOING TO STING. But don’t cry, there’s no crying in CrossFit.
- Second, if you haven’t already, clean off the barbell and pull-up bar you may have gotten blood on—no one wants to touch that grime. Don’t be gross – do the right thing and clean your equipment.
- Next, cut away any excess dead skin as close as possible to the rip. Hanging dead skin may harden and catch on the bar causing the tear to keep occurring. Don’t put yourself through that added pain, cut the skin and apply Neosporin or antibiotic cream to the affected area. Cover with a bandage or wrap with gauze but make sure not to wrap it too tight—let the wound “breathe” a bit. The key is to keep it clean, treated and protected to help the healing process.
Additional healing remedies include:
- keeping the area moisturized with Aquaphor or Vaseline so that the rip doesn’t dry out and the skin doesn’t crack.
- Tea bags – apply a used (cooled) tea bag to the rip for 15 minutes to help relieve any pain you may be experiencing. The tannins in the tea stimulate new skin growth.
- Vitamin E – also helps to speed the healing process when applied directly to the ripped area.
If you follow these steps and are diligent with keeping the ripped area clean, treated and protected, you’ll be on your way to a healthy, healed hand.
Now, before you go back to gripping and ripping (again) the bar, do yourself a favor and apply some preventative hand care to your routine. If you’re a seasoned Crossfitter, chances are you already know these tips, but here they are again as a friendly reminder.
Preventive Hand Care for the Unknown:
- Keep your hands moisturized – think soft and supple
- shave down your calluses or use a Pedi egg every week (Note: calluses aren’t cool – that extra skin catches on the bar, and the friction created when doing high volume pull-ups, toes-to-bar or muscle ups can cause the skin to tear and rip.)
- Invest in grips – cloth, leather, synthetic, whatever may work for you. If you’re on the fence about grips, ask some Uncanny veterans what kind of grips they like. I’m a huge fan of Victory grips – they last a long time, are reliable, and were designed/tested for performance by top gymnasts. Other brands include Bear KompleX, WODies, JAWs, and the Natural Grip™.
If you’re new to CrossFit, take a minute to read CrossFit Invictus’ blog post on hand maintenance. The Invictus post offers some great tips on how to keep your hands primed for any type of gymnastic bar or ring movement.
Rips happen, but they’re not the end of the world. Just remember that you should treat a rip like any other injury and take care of it as soon as it happens.