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Gymnastics Rips on the Hands

Sept 5, 2003
by Rick McCharles <e-mail>

Sooner or later every gymnast tears skin from their hands. This can be painful — but is rarely dangerous. Infection from gymnastics rips is rare. Firstly, we need do everything we can to prevent rips:

  • cool the hands between turns
  • do non-swinging drills between turns of swing
  • wear leather hand grips
Smart coaches & gymnasts have fewer rips.When calluses on the hands get too big there is a chance that the ridge of the callus will catch on the bar causing a rip. Many gymnast shave down their calluses with a “Pyrex Corn and Callus Shaver", nail file or pumice stone. It is risky to use a razor blade — I don’t recommend it.

When a rip occurs, there are dozens of possible treatments.

Immediately wash the rip with soap and warm water. (Alcohol-based disinfectants are no longer recommended by the medical community.)

The wound can then be bandaged with antibiotic ointment (e.g. Neosporin).

Most importantly, I recommend bagging a rip overnight — put the hand in a plastic bag while sleeping. For most gymnasts, most rips are healed in one night this way. Apply any moisturizer to the hand before bagging it. (Be careful not to use a tight elastic band to fix the bag on as it may cut off circulation.)

Sometimes healing rips can “crack” — and cracked rips are much worse than the original rip itself. At this point bagging is essential.

What is the best moisturizing cream? I recommend:
  • udder balm (also called bag balm) used on cattle
  • anything with vitamin E
Want more information? The best article on the internet on treatment of gymnastics rips is by Larry Nassar.

Other articles by coach Rick McCharles

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