How to Treat a Gymnastics Rip

Gymnast applying chalk power to hands in preparation. (PhotoAlto/Odilon Dimier/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

In gymnastics, rips--a separation of the upper layers of skin in the palm of the hand or around the wrists from the lower layers of blood rich tissue--are a common and painful occurrence. Here are some tips for dealing with rips.

Wash Your Hands

It may sting, but it's important to get the chalk off, especially if it's a bloody rip. So hit the restroom and wash it as well as you can with warm water and mild soap. If you keep the rip out of the direct flow from the faucet 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 more. So clip the torn part of the rip with clippers (sterilize them with rubbing alcohol first, especially if this is a communal set of nail clippers in your gym!). Try to get as close to your hand as possible, leaving no "ripped off" skin, and clipping it as neatly as possible, without jagged edges. As you clip, pull the skin down with the skin not away from the rip. This will make it hurt less. Most gymnasts prefer to treat their own rips, but if the 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 are done swinging for the day and you have some time to let the rip heal before you have to get back on a bar. If this is the case, put bacitracin on your 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 whole 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.

Or 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 make one, but the easiest is to take two long pieces of tape. Fold one in half and create a loop at the top. Now tape the bottom part with the second piece, creating what looks like a ​beginner grip.

Put the finger that's 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 dowel grips, the tape grip should slide all the way to the base of your finger, and fit flat and tight on your palm, so it doesn't bunch up when you swing. Your rip may still hurt, but at least it's now protected as you swing.

Treat It Right

Even though gymnasts work through rips all the time, they really are wounds. So treat it like you would treat a 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 it was a bloody one. The better you treat your rip, the faster you'll be swinging pain-free.

Should You Pop a Blood Blister?

The answer is almost always yes unless it's very small. Usually, if you preemptively pop the blood blister (or "water" blister, as some gymnasts call blisters without blood in them), you have a better chance of keeping it from becoming a big rip. If you let it rip open on its own, you usually end up with a bigger rip than if you popped the blister. 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.