How to Treat a Gymnastics Rip

Gymnast applying chalk power to hands in preparation.

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In gymnastics, a rip—a separation of the upper layers of skin in the palm of the hand or the wrist from the lower layers of blood-rich tissue—is a common and painful occurrence. Here are some tips for dealing with this unpleasant injury.

Wash Your Hands

It may sting, but it's important to get the chalk off, especially if it's a bloody rip. Hit the restroom and wash the injury as well as you can with warm water and mild soap. Keep the rip out of the direct flow of the faucet and it'll hurt a lot less.

Get Some Nail Clippers

You'll want to get the ripped skin off, ideally in a way that will prevent your hand from ripping even more. Remove the torn part of the rip with clippers (sterilize them with rubbing alcohol first, especially if this is a communal set of nail clippers from your gym). Try to get as close to your hand as possible, leaving no torn skin, and clip as neatly as you can, without leaving behind jagged edges. Most gymnasts prefer to treat their own rips, but if a rip is on the hand you write with, you may be forced to ask a teammate or coach for help.

Cover It

If you're lucky, you're done swinging for the day and you have some time to let the rip heal before you have to get back on the bar. If this is the case, put bacitracin on the rip, then cover it with tape and some gauze. If it's small, a Band-Aid covered with tape will work well. Wrap the tape horizontally around your hand to give it some protection. Shampooing your hair is going to hurt tonight—but it'll hurt a lot less if your hand is covered.

Make a Tape Grip

If you have to head back to practice, or worse, you're in meet warmups, make a tape grip. There are several ways to do this, and the easiest one requires only two long pieces of tape. Fold one piece in half and create a loop at the top. Then tape the bottom part to the second piece, creating what looks like a ​beginner grip.

Put the finger above your rip through the loop, and secure the tape grip around your wrist with another piece of tape. Put your wristband and grips on over the tape grip. Unlike a dowel grip, a tape grip should slide all the way down to the base of your finger and fit flat and tight on your palm so that it doesn't bunch up when you swing. The rip may still hurt, but at least it's now protected.

Treat It Right

Gymnasts work through rips all the time, but they really are wounds. When you get one, treat it like you would any other cut when you're not at the gym. Put vitamin E on it at night to help it heal and prevent it from cracking, and bacitracin to keep it from getting infected, especially if there was lots of bleeding. The better you treat the rip, the sooner you'll be swinging pain-free.

Should You Pop a Blood Blister?

The answer is almost always yes unless the blister is very small. Usually, if you pop the blood blister (or "water" blister, as some gymnasts call a blister without blood in it), you have a better chance of keeping it from becoming a big rip. If you let it rip open on its own, you'll probably end up with a bigger rip than if you had popped the blister early. To pop it, take a sterilized needle and gently poke the bloody part. Then squeeze the blood out carefully. If the skin around the blood blister is tough, you can stop here. If it seems like it's about to rip on its own, take the nail clippers and cut away the dead skin.